Spectrum Health Treating Irregular Heart Rhythms with Remote Magnetic Guidance

Spectrum Health is using a cutting edge technology to delicately reach areas of the heart that are difficult to access in order to correct irregular heart rhythms. Cardiologists at the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center are using a remotely controlled magnetic guidance system to safely map and treat these irregular rhythms called arrhythmias.

Listen to Dr. Darryl Emouchi talk about the Stereotaxis Navigation System (MP3, 8MB)

The Stereotaxis Magnetic Navigation System allows a physician to perform certain complex cardiology procedures remotely using image-guided, computerized equipment. The system uses magnets to guide and propel a metal-tipped catheter, which is more flexible and softer than conventional catheters to reach remote areas of the heart. The innovative magnetic navigation system is part of an integrated network of computers working together to achieve a safer, more efficient, more effective option for cardiology patients.

The most common interventional treatment for arrhythmias, and in particular tachyarrhythmias, where the patient’s heart rate is too high or irregular, is a procedure called an ablation. The diseased tissue giving rise to the arrhythmia is disabled using an electric current. The cardiologists doing these procedures are called electrophysiologists.

“This magnetic navigation system offers an innovation in cardiovascular care,” said electrophysiologist Darryl Elmouchi, MD. “The computer navigation combined with the gentler catheter makes the catheter placement safer and more precise, allowing us to access remote areas of the heart that were difficult, if not impossible, to access before.”

The rhythmic beating of the heart results from the proper transmission of electrical impulses. When these electrical impulses are out of sync or uncoordinated, the heart fails to function properly, resulting in complications that can range from fatigue to stroke or death. Over five million people in the U.S. currently suffer from arrhythmias.

Ablation to treat arrhythmias is the primary procedure performed with the Stereotaxis system. The procedure involves using a catheter to create a line of scar tissue within the heart that will act as a road block to short circuit an arrhythmia. Traditional ablation methods utilize a harder catheter that is three feet long.

Creating a seamless, straight line of scar tissue is not an easy task. Ablation using Stereotaxis involves a soft catheter that can be moved through the body’s veins, into the heart and into to exact locations remotely through the use of magnets. The softer catheter also is safer for the patient because unlike traditional catheters, it is unlikely to lead to a perforation in the wall of the heart.

The Stereotaxis system enables very precise, computerized control of the working end of the catheter combined with comprehensive integration of diagnostic imaging information. The potential benefits to patients include:

  • Shorter procedures
  • Faster recovery time
  • Less exposure to X-ray radiation
  • Less risk of serious complications from damaging blood vessels or heart tissue
  • Less likelihood of referral to more invasive open-heart procedures.

The Meijer Heart Center’s electrophysiology (EP) team specializes in helping people with arrhythmias. Multiple approaches to diagnosing and correcting faulty heartbeats include catheter-based EP mapping of heart rhythms, medications, electrical cardioversion and ablation therapy, as well as implanting pacemakers and defibrillators. In fiscal year 2008, Meijer Heart Center staff performed the state’s highest volume of electrophysiology and device implants and heart rhythm treatments-more than 890.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, a collection of seven hospitals and more than 140 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group, a multispecialty team of nearly 100 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with nearly 500,000 members. Spectrum Health’s 14,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care to those in medical need.’ The organization provided $111.1 million in community benefit during its 2008 fiscal year. As a system, Spectrum Health has earned more than 100 awards during the past 10 years.