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Racing heartbeats: New technology helps doctors find cause of problem

September 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
About three million Americans suffer from heartbeat rhythm problems, which can range from palpitations to the feeling of a fluttering, irregular beat. For severe cases, those racing heartbeats can cause extreme stress.

Imagine living with the feeling of a racing heartbeat with episodes that can come and go without warning. While some people with cardiac arrhythmias can be treated with medicine, others require surgery. Now, there's a new way to calm racing hearts using computerized navigation to lead doctors to the cause of the problem.

It's been nine years since Angelo Woodard has felt healthy enough to truly enjoy his life. Woodard had ventricular tachycardia, which caused severe heart palpitations.

"This is what I felt 24 hours a day for nine years," Woodard said as he pounded his hand on a table. "I felt that through my whole body."

He recently underwent a new high-tech procedure using the Stereotaxis Magnetic Navigation System, which allows surgeons to more easily seek and heat-destroy the abnormal tissue causing the palpitations.

Traditionally, a doctor would push, by hand, a stiff catheter through the heart. The new catheter is soft like a noodle. Doctors use a joystick and huge magnets to move that noodle through the heart. A computer software creates a 3-D map that highlights the trouble spots.

Dr. Usman Siddiqui, and electrophysiologist, says the new technology enhances precision, which leads to fewer complications, improved outcomes and faster recoveries.

One week after surgery, Woodard said the pounding was gone.

"I can do anything. I go to the gym every day, spend time with my daughters. So it's great," said Woodard.

Siddiqui says the new technology also shortens the time it takes to perform the procedure, reducing radiation exposure to the patient and surgeon.


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