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Loyola first in state to offer new device to treat atrial fibrillation

MAYWOOD, Ill.- Loyola University Medical Center is the first hospital in Illinois to offer a new high-tech catheter device that can improve outcomes of patients treated for atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heartbeat.

The treatment, called catheter ablation, involves burning troublesome tissue inside the heart with the tip of a catheter. This eliminates the source of errant electrical signals that trigger the atrial fibrillation.

The new device, the ThermoCool® SmartTouch® catheter, has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The device tells the physician the precise direction of the catheter and how hard it is pushing against the heart wall. This information is graphically displayed on a 3-D mapping and navigation system.

Loyola participated in a pivotal, multicenter clinical trial of the pressure-sensing catheter. Principal investigator at the Loyola site was David Wilber, MD, one of the nation's leading researchers in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Wilber is director of Loyola’s Division of Cardiology and Section of Clinical Electrophysiology.

In atrial fibrillation, also known as a-fib, electrical signals that regulate the heartbeat become erratic. Instead of beating regularly, the upper chambers of the heart quiver. Not all the blood gets pumped out, so clots can form. A-fib can lead to strokes and heart failure.

More than 2 million Americans have a-fib. There are about 160,000 new cases each year. The number is increasing due in part to the aging population and the obesity epidemic.

A-fib symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness, chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, fainting and lightheadedness. "A lot of people are disabled," Wilber said. "They have no energy. They can't work. They have a very poor quality of life."

Medications can maintain a normal heart rhythm. But when drugs don't work or cause unacceptable side effects, alternative treatments include surgery or catheter ablation. While drugs have been available for more than 30 years, ablation is a relatively new treatment.

In catheter ablation, an electrophysiologist inserts a catheter (thin flexible tube) in a groin artery and guides it through blood vessels to the heart. The tip of the catheter delivers radiofrequency energy that heats and destroys the tissue that is sending out erratic electrical signals.

The challenge is to press the catheter firmly enough against the wall of the heart so that sufficient tissue is destroyed, without pushing so hard that the catheter punches a hole in the heart. This requires a very fine balance that is difficult to achieve, even for an experienced physician.

In the new device, a sensor in the tip of the catheter enables direct measurement of both the amount of contact force and the angle in which the force is being applied to the heart wall.

“The pressure-sensing catheter can improve patient outcomes and the durability of ablation treatments,” Wilber said.

Loyola serves as a major regional and national referral center for the treatment of complex heart rhythm disorders, offering treatment options often unavailable elsewhere. Loyola’s team of electrophysiologists, advanced practice nurses, technical staff, imaging experts and other professionals provide an integrated approach to the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of rhythm disturbances and their associated underlying conditions.  Loyola’s heart rhythm specialists are frequently at the forefront of new technology innovations for the treatment of patients.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Jim Ritter
Media Relations
(708) 216-2445
jritter@lumc.edu
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