Medical Minute 3-12: Magnets Guide Hearts Back Into Rhythm

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

David Swigers's plans for retirement are to travel, but his heart problems got it the way. One episode even happened mid-flight.

"Suddenly, I passed out and went into a-fib, and the flight attendant thought I was dying," said Swigers.

David has atrial fibrillation. The upper chambers of his heart beat irregularly. It makes him tired and out of breath.

"It's like you've run a race and you're always feeling that feeling."

Medication wasn't working, so his doctor recommended catheter ablation. Cardiologists thread a catheter from the groin to the heart and zap the abnormal heart tissue. Studies show it's 60% to 80% effective. Doctor Kalyanam Shivkumar uses a new piece of machinery. Instead of guiding the catheter to the heart by hand, two large magnets do the job.

"So it catches hold of the very tip of the catheter so it gives a very high degree of precision and control," said Kalyanam Shivkumar, M.D., Ph.D., Director UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center.

From another room, cardiologists map out the heart in 3-D and use a joystick to guide the catheter to the exact problem spots.

"This technology is able to get into some nooks and corners of the heart which is harder to do by just hand manipulation," said Dr. Shivkumar.

Doctors say it reduces radiation exposure and increases control, but they're still collecting data to see if it works better than the traditional approach long-term.

A couple months after the ablation, David's had one heart episode.

"Which is kind of a record for me over the last few years," said
David Swiger.

He's hoping it's a record that lasts so he can get back into the groove of retirement.

For more information: Ivanhoe Broadcast News2745 W. Fairbanks Ave.Winter Park, FL 32789http://www.ivanhoe.comMelissa Medalie, Supervising Producer Medical Newsmmedalie@ivanhoe.comDirect Line: (407) 691-1516Viewer Line: (407) 740-0789 ext. 579

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