Thursday, February 27, 2014

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.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.