'Smart' Cardiac Catheter Could Speed Arrhythmia Treatment, Improve Safety

Christine Leccese, for Health Leaders Media, March 9, 2011

A promising "smart" cardiac catheterization device could cut catheterization procedure time for arrhythmias in half, while dramatically improving safety and efficacy new research shows.

Researchers published details about the device in the March issue of Nature Materials. The device, tested in animals at academic medical institutions in the U.S., is slated to undergo human trials in a year to 18 months, and researchers hope it will be available for the U.S. market in 2 or 3 years.

The catheter combines diagnostics and treatment ability in one device by having tools electronically "imprinted" on a standard balloon catheter. These tools give feedback to surgeons that allow them to proceed with greater precision, and enable them to eliminate tissue damage.

Researchers theorize that with the new catheter, the procedure of taking care of cardiac arrhythmias, which can take about two hours, may be reduced to an hour or less. The current treatment for patients with cardiac arrhythmias requires that doctors insert at least two catheters. One is used to map where the arrhythmias are happening, and the other is used to ablate abnormal tissue. The new device has dual functionality, offering "map and zap" technology.

"Our goal is to make the procedure as short as possible," says Dr. Rooz Ghaffari, co-founder and scientist at MC10, the Cambridge, MA-based company that is developing the product. "If you can combine sensing and therapy onto one device, that is the path to making it faster."

This is good news for hospitals, cardiologists, and patients since shorter procedures are generally safer. A longer procedure comes with a higher risk of blood clots or stroke. It also requires the patient to be sedated longer, which has its own risks.

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