Remote control treatment for irregular heart beats

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Sunnybrook is the first centre in Canada to use a new remote control system for treating arrhythmia that is more effective and safer for patients than other options.

“Adding this technology to our minimally invasive arrhythmia lab, which is already cutting-edge with its use of robotic imaging-guided technology, is further enhancing the precision and safety of heart procedures,” says Dr. Eugene Crystal, cardiologist and Director of Arrhythmia Services at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre. “We can now access really challenging areas of the heart chambers, which results in greater accuracy during ablation and a reduced risk of complications for patients.”

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The VdriveTM system from Stereotaxis is the latest addition to Sunnybrook’s arrhythmia suite that treats about 300 patients a year for irregular heartbeats that occur when the electricity that flows through the heart to trigger the pumping action “short circuits”, or gets blocked, and disturbs the heart’s normal rhythm. Heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath are all symptoms, which if left untreated can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The sophisticated GPS-like technology controls powerful magnets near the patient to map a pathway through a patient’s blood vessels and heart to the diseased heart tissue. The magnets lead a soft catheter gently along this pathway by guiding its magnetic tip, precisely identifying the location of the faulty electrical site in each patient. Clinicians from the Schulich Heart Centre then ablate, or destroy, damaged heart tissue that causes the electrical malfunction to restore a regular heart rhythm.

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“This is win-win technology that greatly benefits both patients and the health care teams looking after them. Patients receive the best care for irregular heart rhythms in the safest possible environment, and they can often go home the same day with such minimally invasive treatment,” adds Dr. Crystal, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto.