Magnetically Guided to the Heart

"Based on our experience with remote navigation and ablation technology, a new era in interventional electrophysiology is beginning as magnetic, very soft catheters can be navigated in the heart more precisely and safely than manual catheters without risk of major complications," said Carlo Pappone, M.D., Ph.D. from the Department of Electrophysiology, San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan, Italy.

If atrial fibrillation cannot be managed with medications, some patients are treated with radio frequency ablation. The technique uses a high energy pulse to destroy a small area of heart muscle cells, in order to prevent them from conducting nerve signals that trigger fibrillation.

Typically the radio frequency pulse is emitted from the tip of a catheter threaded through blood vessels into the heart. Conventional catheters are somewhat stiff, so they can be pushed and pulled through blood vessels, and their tips can be curled and pointed by an operator standing by the patient. The new device uses a very soft, limp tip that has a magnet on the end. The operator of this device uses a computer to control a magnetic field that robotically moves the catheter tip. The principle is the same as a compass needle pointing to magnetic north; allowing this device to steer the magnetic catheter in three dimensions to a target visualized on 3-D scans of the patient's heart.

"The current strategy of manual catheter manipulation is highly operator-dependent, with a great potential for both inefficacy and complications in inexperienced hands. Robotic navigation may increase the ability of inexperienced operators to perform this procedure easily and safely, as it is most dependent on a well-trained team rather than on a single operator," Dr. Pappone said.; Source: American College of Cardiology