3D mapping to find and treat heart arrhythmias

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:
(Credit: MGN)

One in 18 people in the U.S. has a heart arrhythmia. A recent study suggests that one in four adults over the age of 40 could develop an irregular heartbeat.

Some people will know they have it, others won’t until it’s too late. Now, doctors have a more precise way to diagnose and treat it all at the same time.

A healthy heart beats up to a hundred times a minute. But if that increases or decreases, you may suffer from a heart arrhythmia, caused by breakdowns in the electrical pathways of the heart.

Professor of Medicine and Electrophysiologist at Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Rod Passman, MD, explains, “Some can cause the heart muscle to weaken, and you could develop heart failure, and some can predispose you to stroke.”

Traditionally, doctors diagnose these disorders with an EKG, then medications, or an ablation is performed. But now, Northwestern Medicine doctors are among the first in the country to use a new advanced 3D mapping system.

“By sending magnetic signals through the body, we could recreate a three-dimensional animation of your heart,” Dr. Passman further explains.

Previous technology mapped a few dozen points within the heart. The new technology can map tens of thousands of points in just a few minutes, pinpointing the problem down to the millimeter.

Dr. Passman says, “We can then develop a very personalized approach to your abnormal rhythm.”

A catheter is inserted through a tiny incision and snaked through the blood vessel in the groin. Doctors either heat or freeze the abnormal tissue, sending the heart back into a normal rhythm.

“We can perform your ablations faster, safer, and more effectively, and hopefully, restore you to a higher quality life than you had before,” Dr. Passman reassures.

Men are at a slightly higher risk for heart arrhythmia. There are also things we do to reduce the risk including weight loss, frequent exercise, minimizing alcohol intake, and treating other disorders such as sleep apnea. Anyone over the age of 65, especially those who have diabetes or high blood pressure, should be checked every year for abnormal heart rhythms.

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