Visually-guided laser may be viable treatment for abnormal heartbeat

May 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new treatment known as a visually-guided laser-balloon catheter successfully interrupted abnormal electrical pulses in patients and pigs with intermittent, irregular heartbeats, in a study reported in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Severe cases of may require a procedure called ablation, which destroys a group of “misfiring” cells to stop abnormal electrical impulses that cause erratic heartbeats.

Investigators aimed at cells in the that carry blood from the lungs to the heart. In the clinical part of the study, they ablated the misfiring cells with 100 percent accuracy. In 84 percent of the pulmonary veins treated, ceased after just one set of laser treatments. Three months after treatment, 90 percent of the treated veins remained inactive.

Unlike other catheters that rely on X-rays for visual guidance, in the new treatment doctors use a slender instrument called an endoscope that provides continuous real-time images. This allows investigators to aim the laser at precise locations in the pulmonary veins. The investigators destroyed cells in an overlapping pattern to completely “disconnect” them and prevent new electrical connections from forming later.

The study’s clinical component included 27 patients, average age 53, two-thirds male, with diagnosed intermittent, abnormal heartbeat (called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or PAF). All patients had tried at least one drug that did not relieve their symptoms.

For the , the scientists examined pigs because their hearts are structured similar to humans. The investigators inactivated abnormally functioning pulmonary veins 97 percent of the time after the first set of laser-energy treatments. Four weeks later, 80 percent of the ablated veins were still inactive.

Additional research is needed to determine long-term safety and efficacy of balloon-guided, laser catheter, researchers said.

Atrial Fibrillation facts and statistics

• An estimated 2.2 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation (AF).
• It’s the most common “serious” heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65 years.
• 11,438 deaths and 461,000 hospital discharges are attributed to AF per year, and about 75,000 new cases of AF are diagnosed each year.
• Stroke is 5 times more likely in people with AF compared to those without the condition.
• AF is responsible for at least 15% to 20% of all ischemic strokes.
• Data from the NHDS/NCHS (1996 -2001) on cases that included AF as a primary discharge diagnosis found the following:
- Approximately 44.8% of patients were men.
- The mean age for men was 66.8 years, versus 74.6 years for women.
- The racial breakdown for admissions was 71.2% white, 5.6% black, and 2.0% other races (20.8% were not specified).

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Some people with AF don’t feel a thing. Others notice an irregularity immediately. Symptoms may include:

- Racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat
- “Flopping,” fluttering or thumping feeling in your chest
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness
- Sweating
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty getting your breath
- Overall weakness
- Fainting
- Fatigue during exercise.

Explore further: Dallas hospital confirms first Ebola case in US

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Surgeons announce advance in atrial fibrillation surgery

Apr 07, 2008

Heart surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that by adding a simple 10-20 second step to an operative procedure they achieved a significant improvement in the outcome for the surgical treatment ...

Recommended for you

Africa's uneven health care becomes easy prey for Ebola

5 hours ago

Threatened by the possible spread of an Ebola epidemic which respects no borders, Africa is divided between a handful of countries equipped to withstand an outbreak and many more which would be devastated, experts say.

Ebola case stokes concerns for Liberians in Texas

6 hours ago

The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. has been confirmed in a man who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas, sending chills through the area's West African community whose leaders urged caution ...

Is Australia prepared for Ebola?

9 hours ago

Australia needs to be proactive about potential disease outbreaks like Ebola and establish a national centre for disease control.

Dallas hospital confirms first Ebola case in US

14 hours ago

A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

User comments : 0