New technology at MUSC could improve quality of life for cardiac patients

MUSC is the first hospital in the United States to use new technology that could help improve people’s lives after a heart attack. It’s called the FlexAbility Ablation Catheter, which is basically a tool that helps doctors better map the heart, see troubled areas, and fix them in a fraction of the time.

One patient who went through the procedure, Frankie Smith, says, “Beforehand, it felt like my heart was going to run away.”

He’s describing how he felt every day.

He says, “I literally felt like it was going to bust out of my chest.”

Smith’s heart was out of rhythm, but after this first of its kind surgery at MUSC he says, “After the procedure, it went away.”

This new technology is used on people who have serious heart damage.

MUSC Director of Ventricular Arrhythmia Service, Dr. Jeffrey Winterfield, says, “They are at risk for developing ventricular arrhythmias which can be a cause of cardiac arrest and sudden death.”

Many of these people need internal cardiac defibrillator, which will automatically shock their heart if an irregular heart beat occurs. Despite their benefits, defibrillators have a downside.

Winterfield says, “If you start being treated with these life saving therapies for ventricular arrhythmias we also know that you are at risk for having more ventricular arrhythmias, at a higher risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease, higher risk of heart failure, and higher risk of hospitalization.”

This new way of mapping the heart is faster and more accurate.

Winterfield says, “In identifying those scarred areas, we can pinpoint likely areas of short circuits that can be causes of these irregular heartbeats. Then we go in with a catheter and we can actually cauterize those areas, or burn, with radio frequency ablation.”

Once they do that, it means less irregular heartbeats, less shocks from the defibrillator and ultimately a longer and more comfortable life.

Winterfield says, “Our goal is to reduce the pain and suffering, and possibly the mortality consequences of having those therapies over the long term.”

It won’t completely eliminate the need for internal defibrillators, but lessen the amount of times it needs to shock a patient’s heart by about 70%. Doctors say the shocks can be very painful, so cutting down on how often they are needed greatly increases the patient’s quality of life.

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