Measuring Progress of Disease

AF is a little known heart rhythm disorder that affects more than 3.5 million Americans and causes more than 66,000 deaths a year. It is a misfiring of the electrical signals of the heart, which causes rapid and/or irregular heartbeats and is associated with fibrosis (scar tissue) in the left atrium.

Although DE-MRI is an established method for visualizing tissue damage in cardiac disease processes, the study assessed its use in a protocol developed to detect fibrosis in AF patients before they underwent radiofrequency (RF) ablation. This procedure involves the use of catheters that emit mild, painless radiofrequency energy to destroy carefully selected heart muscle cells to stop them from conducting extra electrical impulses.

In this study, the University of Utah colleagues developed a protocol using DE-CMRI to create 3-D images of the left atrium before RF ablation, which were processed and analyzed with custom software tools and computer algorithms to calculate the extent of left atrium wall injury. Patients were then assessed at least six months after the procedure, and the researchers found that only 14 percent classified as having minimal fibrosis had suffered AF recurrence compared to 75 percent recurrence for the group that had extensive scar tissue damage.

"Our results indicate that DE-MRI provides a noninvasive means of assessing left atrial myocardial tissue in patients suffering from AF, and that those who do have tissue damage may be at greater risk of suffering AF recurrence after treatment with RF ablation," said Nassir F. Marrouche, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine in the University of Utah School of Medicine and director of the Atrial Fibrillation Program. "Our findings also present a disease progression model that supports the importance of early intervention."

COMPAMED.de; Source: University of Utah