New tool to treat atrial fibrillation

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- According to the American Heart Association, atrial fibrillation, or AFib, affects more than 2 million people in the U.S. Catheter ablation has been used for more than twenty years to treat symptoms of AFib, and now new technology in our area provides better results for AFib patients.

Dr. Dilip Mathew is the only cardiac electrophysiologist on the Suncoast performing ablations with the ThermoCool SmartTouch catheter. “This catheter gives us a better assurance as to how much pressure we need to apply to the left atrium; that is the chamber in the heart which we use to treat ablation.”

The SmartTouch – FDA-approved in February -- is the first catheter ablation therapy in the U.S. to feature direct contact force technology for treatment of AFib. “This makes sure that we deliver adequate heat and energy to the tissue, which we need to ablate or destroy.”

“When the arrow turns red and the back of the screen flashes, it means too much pressure has been applied.” The SmartTouch catheter gives the electrophysiologist more accurate information on direction, location, and force when applying RF, or radio frequency, against the heart wall, which Dr. Mathew says should translate into better outcomes for patients. “That has been proved in the large North American and European trial, that the patients who had undergone ablation with this catheter had at least a 35-40% improvement in their outcomes.”

Symptomatic AFib patients experience remarkable results following ablation, says Dr. Mathew. “Dramatically, it improves their quality of life, decreases the need for medication, which are called antiarythmics, which have significant side effects.”

Ablation, he says, may have even more serious benefits. “There are some studies which have shown they may actually improve their risk in terms of preventing strokes.”