Physician at Arkansas Children's Hospital develops technique for performing heart catheterizations without X-ray

Little Rock 15 February 2006The use of fluoroscopy, or X-ray, is not safe for any patient, especially children, because of the potentially damaging health effects later in life. Recently, Paediatric Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist Dr. Volkan Tuzcu, Director of Electrophysiology and Pacing at Arkansas Children's Hospital and associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, began performing heart catheterization procedures involving rhythm and conduction system assessment and treatment without the need for X-ray for the majority of his patients. His new technique uses a computerized three-dimensional mapping system, eliminating the need for real-time X-ray imaging to visually navigate the catheter through the heart.


The computerized mapping system was originally designed to create a "virtual" picture of the heart that could be rotated 360 degrees, allowing a better image than X-ray could provide. This virtual image is created by "prompting" the software programme each time a catheterization probe reaches certain known points within the heart, such as the openings of the atria and ventricles and the entry points to certain veins and arteries.

Dr. Tuzcu advances the probe into the heart, and as he senses when each of these known markers is reached, a computer operator keys that information into the system. As the software absorbs the various markers' positions on the screen, it slowly creates a virtual image of the heart. Dr. Tuzcu's new technique uses the virtual picture to navigate through complex catheterization procedures within the heart, such as ablation or removal of defective heart cells that cause fast heart rhythm episodes.

"This is going to change the way physicians do heart catheterizations", stated Dr. Tuzcu. Heart catheterizations are a less invasive option for patients, allowing certain conditions to be addressed without the need for cardiovascular surgery. To his knowledge, this recently developed approach is unprecedented in electrophysiology around the world.

Electrophysiology deals with cardiovascular defects such as an irregular heart beat, often using catheterization procedures. The ability to perform these procedures without X-ray creates a new field of cardiology patients. Patients who are pregnant or are being treated for cancer can now receive treatment for rhythm disturbances that need ablation since the need for X-ray has been eliminated.

So far, the outcome of these procedures has not been affected and there have been no complications.

Leslie Versweyveld

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