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5D imaging leads doctors to the heart of the matter

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 03:22

Nov. 22 - Cardiologists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota are now able to step inside a patient's heart to identify and repair problems causing irregular heartbeat. The virtual technology eliminates the need for open heart surgery which doctors say will reduce recovery time while saving money and lives. Ben Gruber reports.

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STORY: William Paul suffers from arrhythmia, a potentially lethal condition where rogue electrical signals cause the heart to beat too fast or too slowly. Over the past ten years, William has been through two procedures to correct the problem, but both have failed. He's about to undergo his third. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILLIAM PAUL, PATIENT, SAYING: "I now have a much more serious maybe realistic approach to this having been through it twice. I know the down side that you can do this and it may not work." But this procedure will be different. With modern imaging technology the Mayo Clinic's Dr Douglas Packer will be able see inside his patients' heart while he works. He'll have a perfect digital model through which he'll be able to direct five catheters to the source of the problem. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOUGLAS PACKER, CHIEF OF ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "Most of these procedures that we are doing today 10-15 years ago we couldn't even do. If we did them they would be in an operating room, open chest, with all of the issues of open heart surgery. Now we can take five or six catheters and we will thread those catheters through veins into the centre of the heart and then search around for the electrical origin." The digital model was created with an MRI machine the day before William's procedure. Then with the procedure underway, Dr Packer used sensors embedded in the catheters to map out the inside of the arteries, as well as build a real-time model of the electrical activity in the heart - effectively giving him a five dimensional view. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOUGLAS PACKER, CHIEF OF ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "It takes a fair amount of work to get four or five different images put together in one composite image that you can not just look at from that outside in but you can actually walk into and look around just the same way as you would walk into a room and look around that room." And Dr Packer says being inside the heart gives unprecedented access to the problem. Once found, he can use a catheter to cut away that small part of the heart muscle producing the rogue electrical signal. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOUGLAS PACKER, CHIEF OF ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "These electrical signals move from one end of the heart to the other faster than one second and, in fact, faster than 100 milliseconds, so the computer has to be that fast. We have computers that are close to that and the ability of integrating them - we are a lot closer to that." Dr. Packer says as computer processing speeds improve, multi-dimensional modelling will take over as the standard for treating arrhythmia as well as other heart conditions. He says it's revolutionary technology that will eliminate the need for more invasive surgeries and the long, painful and expensive recovery time that follows William Paul is simply hoping, that with the technology, the third time is the charm. Ben Gruber, Reuters.

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5D imaging leads doctors to the heart of the matter

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 03:22