Heart Health: Looking Inside X-Ray-Free
Reported April 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) is a dangerous condition where the heart beats irregularly. It's a major cause of stroke and affects over two million Americans -- mostly the elderly. Treatment is possible, but it doesn't come without risks. Now, there's a new, safer way to treat A-Fib.
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One night, Joann Mooney's heart started racing. She was terrified.
"I thought I was having a heart attack," Mooney recalled.
She has A-Fib, an irregular heart rhythm. Traditionally, cardiologists use X-rays to see inside the body and guide a flexible tube to the heart to fix the condition. The surgery can last up to six hours, exposing patients and doctors to large amounts of radiation.
"There are many known dangers to X-ray exposure, predominately an increased incidence of both skin cancer and other forms of cancer," John Ferguson, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., explained.
Now, doctors have a new method to treat the condition, completely eliminating the need for X-rays.
"We think we can get better imaging of the cardiac tissue using this technique, than traditional X-ray techniques," Dr. Ferguson said.
Doctors use an ultrasound catheter -- a flexible tube with a miniaturized ultrasound on the tip of the tube to see inside the body. Combined with a 3-D image of the heart, surgeons can guide the catheter to fix the areas of the heart causing the irregular heart rhythm.
"Being able to complete a long and complex procedure without any X-ray, I think is almost certainly going to be beneficial to patients," Dr. Ferguson said.
Mooney's surgery was a success, bringing her a new lease on life.
"I'm like a new person," she said. "I'm enjoying life to the fullest."
She made a full recovery, X-ray free.
Pregnant women with abnormal heart rates can also be safely treated using this technique. The procedure also uses MRI for all imaging needed prior to surgery. Traditionally, CT scans were used, but CT uses X-ray beams.
The American Association of Physicists in Medicine contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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Health System Media Relations
Dr. Sudarshan Chamakuri
American Association of Physicists in Medicine
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