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: Hospitals should follow CDC recommendations for Ebola care

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

Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness

1 hour ago

A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Oral contraceptive equal to antibiotics for acne care

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—At six months, oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management, according to a review published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Ac ...

Photodynamic therapy vs. cryotherapy for actinic keratoses

10 hours ago

Photodynamic therapy (PDT, which uses topical agents and light to kill tissue) appears to better clear actinic keratoses (AKs, a common skin lesion caused by sun damage) at three months after treatment than cryotherapy (which ...

US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

12 hours ago

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading American health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse before it ...

User comments : 0