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Heart Health

New Technology Means an Irregular Heartbeat Doesn’t Disrupt Dorothy Bradford’s Life

By Jason M Carlton

Jan 18, 2017


At 88, Dorothy is an active woman. When she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that caused her heart to beat at 130 beats per minute compared to the normal rate of 60 to 100, she began working with a team of nationally-recognized heart experts to fix the problem.

When medications didn’t work, Dorothy and her doctors decided a catheter ablation was needed to stop rogue electrical currents in the heart from causing the arrhythmia. And as luck would have it, Dorothy became a medical pioneer as St. Jude Medical’s EnSite Precision new cardiac mapping system made its national debut at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

During a catheter ablation procedure, physicians use several long tubes with wires, known as catheters, and guide them into the heart through the femoral veins. Sensors on the ends of those wires record electrical information and create a three-dimensional anatomical model that identifies the paths of electrical currents in the heart.

In December, a 3-D image of Dorothy’s heart, along with maps created by the new high-tech mapping system showing the electrical currents that pulsed through her heart, were used by Dorothy’s physician, John Day, MD, to treat her arrhythmia.

“It was an honor to be selected as the first center in the nation to use this new technology,” said Dr. Day, medical director of the Intermountain Heart Rhythm Specialists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “The new EnSite Precision mapping technology allows us to create a more accurate map of the heart’s structure and electrical currents in a shorter period of time. That leads to better successes in the cath lab and reduced risks of complications for the patient.”

Once the 3-D image is created and studied, physicians perform an ablation to remove the very small, targeted area of the heart muscle that’s causing the abnormal rhythm. During the ablation, a small catheter is placed into the heart with an electrode at its tip. The electrode sends out radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) that burns away the cells that are causing the fast or irregular heartbeat. The catheter is then removed from the patient.

Using the new technology helps patients return to their normal life sooner and reduces the likelihood of repeat visits to the cath lab for the patient, thus reducing the cost of care.

“At the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, we’re always on the lookout for scientifically-proven technologies that will improve and individualize patient care and improve outcomes,” said Dr. Day. “We’re excited to have been part of this inaugural case and look forward to continuing to provide the best patient care possible.”

Follow a play-by-play recount of the procedure, which was shared live on Intermountain Medical Center’s Twitter account.