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Tampa General Hospital among first in region to offer new high-tech catheter device for treating atrial fibrillation

Published: Apr 1, 2014

By Tampa General Hospital


April 1, 2014 (Tampa, FL) – Tampa General Hospital is among the first in Tampa Bay region to offer a new high-tech catheter device that can improve the outcomes of patients treated for atrial fibrillation, or Afib, the most common sustained irregular heart rhythm. The ThermoCool® SmartTouch® catheter, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, enables doctors to accurately control the amount of contact force applied to the heart wall during radiofrequency catheter ablation procedures. The FDA has also approved the device for two other types of heart rhythm disorders, ventricular tachycardia and atrial flutter. Catheter ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure that involves inserting a therapeutic catheter through a small incision in the groin and maneuvering it up to the heart through a blood vessel. Once it reaches the heart’s left upper chamber (atrium), the doctor uses radiofrequency energy to burn away selected areas of tissue with the tip of the catheter. This produces a scar, or lesion, to block the faulty electrical signals triggering atrial fibrillation. The new contact-force technology relays to the physician the precise angle of the catheter and how hard it is pushing against the beating heart wall. The information, displayed on a monitor as a 3-D graphic, helps doctors steer the catheter to areas where ablation is needed and apply targeted treatment. “The new device provides critical contact force information to help confirm that we are consistently applying the intended amount of pressure with the catheter throughout the procedure, so that optimal outcomes can be achieved,” said Bengt Herweg, MD, associate professor of medicine at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and director of Electrophysiology at USF Health and Arrhythmia Services at Tampa General. “Without this technology, doctors must estimate the amount of force being applied to the heart wall through other indirect measures that have been shown not to be as effective.” Studies indicate poor tissue contact with the catheter may cause incomplete lesion formation that could require additional treatment, while too much contact force may cause tissue injury, which may lead to complications. One-year results from a clinical trial testing the safety and effectiveness of the device in patients with Afib showed that patients experienced a 74-percent overall success rate after treatment with the ThermoCool® SmartTouch® catheter, compared to 63 percent for patients treated with a traditional catheter. Data from the trial showed higher success rates the longer physicians stayed within a targeted contact force range, with one-year results showing an 88-percent success rate when the targeted range was maintained 85 percent of the time or more. An estimated 3 million Americans suffer from Afib, a progressive disease that increases in severity and frequency if left untreated, and can lead to chronic fatigue, congestive heart failure and stroke. While most Afib patients are treated with drugs, about half are unable to control their abnormal heart rhythm with drugs or cannot tolerate the side effects. When medication does not work, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association suggest catheter ablation be considered as a safe and effective treatment option.