Editor's Note: Debuting this issue, "Future Tense" will examine emerging technologies that may shape the future of care delivery.
Technology: Robotic catheter system.
Manufacturer: Hansen Medical, Mountain View, CA.
Purpose: Used during catheter-based ablation of atrial fibrillation and other complicated electrophysiology procedures.
Early adopter: Andrea Natale, MD, executive medical director, Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute, Austin.
What Robot Does: Assists physician in guiding catheter from entry in groin to upper chamber of heart. The operator guides the robot using a joystick. "The procedure involves ablating and cauterizing a defined area in the upper chamber," says Natale.
Potential Improvement: Because of the robot's precision and stability, interventional cardiologists can more easily navigate the heart, Natale says. "An inexperienced physician may take 10 hours or more to do this procedure manually," says Natale. The cardiac electrophysiologist has treated more than 1,700 patients and can complete one in four hours.
What's Next: One day, software may guide the catheter, Natale says. Until then, skilled physicians will do the navigation aided by fluoroscopy. Nonetheless, the robot could enable more physicians to do the procedure more efficiently.