New Treatment Found for Abnormal Heartbeat

DALLAS, June 1 (UPI) — U.S. medical investigators say they’ve found a new treatment known as a visually guided balloon-laser catheter stops abnormal heartbeats in people and pigs.

The scientists said severe cases of irregular heartbeat may require a procedure called ablation, which destroys a group of “misfiring” cells to stop abnormal electrical impulses that cause erratic heartbeats.

In the clinical trial the scientists said they aimed at cells in the pulmonary veins that carry blood from the lungs to the heart. They said they ablated the misfiring cells with 100 percent accuracy. In 84 percent of the pulmonary veins treated, electrical pulses ceased after just one set of laser treatments. Three months after treatment, 90 percent of the treated veins remained inactive.

Unlike other catheters that rely on X-rays for visual guidance, the new procedure involves the use of a slender instrument called an endoscope that provides continuous real-time images. That allows investigators to aim the laser at precise locations in the pulmonary veins.

For the animal model, the scientists examined pigs because their hearts are similar to human hearts. The investigators inactivated abnormally functioning pulmonary veins 97 percent of the time after the first set of laser-energy treatments. Four weeks later, 80 percent of the ablated veins were still inactive.

The researchers said additional studies are needed to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of the new procedure.

The study is reported in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

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