Texas medical center to use endoscopic catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation

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St. David's Medical Center in Austin will use an investigational, endoscopically guided laser catheter that allows for minimally invasive treatment of heart rhythm disorders.

The procedure, called endoscopic catheter ablation, was first performed in Texas as part of the ENdoscopic ABlation using Light Energy (ENABLE) trial, a multi-center clinical investigation that will soon take place at up to 25 hospitals throughout the United States.

The purpose of the study is to compare two types of treatment for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation that are designed to treat the symptoms of AF.  The treatments being compared are: a single catheter ablation with the investigational endoscopic ablation system and standard drug therapy (antiarrhythmic drugs).

"With endoscopic catheter ablation, for the first time, we can see directly into the heart to treat the areas that are allowing abnormal heart rhythm," said Rodney Horton, MD, electrophysiologist, Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia, a division of Texas Cardiovascular Consultants. "This technology could change the way we perform complex cardiac procedures."

Horton said that during the endoscopic catheter ablation, physicians insert a slender catheter into a vein in the patient's right leg, which is threaded into the patient's chest, and guided into a large vein in the heart using the real-time investigational endoscopic video camera, small amounts of traditional x-ray and ultrasound imaging.

Once the abnormal rhythm is found, physicians visualize the target heart tissue for the first time. The physician then uses the laser to highlight the area of treatment, while releasing precisely controlled arcs of near-infrared light around the opening of the vein. Several bursts of laser energy destroy an area of abnormal tissue while causing no significant damage to surrounding healthy heart muscle, according to Horton.