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Visually Guided Laser Treats Arrhythmia

Photonics.com
May 2010
DALLAS, May 28, 2010 — A new treatment known as a visually guided laser balloon catheter can successfully interrupt abnormal electrical pulses in patients and pigs with intermittent, irregular heartbeats, reports the American Heart Association.

Severe cases of irregular heartbeat may require a procedure called ablation, which destroys a group of "misfiring" cells to stop abnormal electrical impulses that cause erratic heartbeats.

Investigators aimed at cells in the pulmonary veins, which carry blood from the lungs to the heart. In the clinical part of the study, they ablated the misfiring cells with 100 percent accuracy. In 84 percent of the pulmonary veins treated, electrical pulses ceased after just one set of laser treatments. Three months after treatment, 90 percent of the treated veins remained inactive.

Unlike catheters that rely on x-rays for visual guidance, in the new treatment a slender instrument called an endoscope provides continuous real-time images. It allows investigators to aim the laser at precise locations in the pulmonary veins. The investigators destroyed cells in an overlapping pattern to completely "disconnect" them and prevent new electrical connections from forming later.

The study's clinical component included 27 patients, average age 53, two-thirds male, with diagnosed intermittent, abnormal heartbeat (called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or PAF). All patients had tried at least one drug that did not relieve their symptoms.

For the animal model, the scientists examined pigs because their heart structure is similar to that of humans. The investigators inactivated abnormally functioning pulmonary veins 97 percent of the time after the first set of laser-energy treatments. Four weeks later, 80 percent of the ablated veins were still inactive.

Additional research is needed to determine long-term safety and efficacy of balloon-guided laser catheter, researchers said.

This study was funded by CardioFocus Inc., a laser ablation research company located in Marlborough, Mass.

For more information, visit:  www.americanheart.org 




GLOSSARY
endoscope
A medical instrument used to view inside the human body by inserting the instrument into a natural or created aperture. The endoscope may use a coherent fiber optic bundle or conventional optics to relay the image to the eye or a television camera. Illumination is provided by a concentric bundle of noncoherent fiber optics.  
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