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Advanced treatment for cardiac arrhythmias

Patients at Houston Northwest Medical Center treated for an irregular heartbeat may be candidates for a new form of radiofrequency ablation using cooling technology. This advanced system allows doctors to more thoroughly eliminate an identified part of the heart that is causing an irregular heartbeat.

Radiofrequency ablation is a nonsurgical procedure that involves placing a catheter (a small, flexible, hollow tube) at a targeted area in the heart. Very small controlled burns are then made resulting in scar tissue that can block abnormal electrical impulses from the heart and promote a normal heartbeat.

“For some patients, procedures performed using these special cooling catheters require only one course of treatment rather than multiple procedures as may be required with regular radiofrequency ablation,” says Ramesh Hariharan, M.D., cardiologist and electrophysiologist on the medical staff at Houston Northwest Medical Center. “This is possible because we can burn deeper in the heart and more completely.”

The advanced cooling system involves using a catheter that has wires connected to a generator that supplies radiofrequency waves to the top of the catheter placed in the heart. This energy generates heat that destroys targeted heart tissue. A pump connected to the same catheter delivers fluid, usually a saline solution, to the ablation site to cool the tip of the catheter so that charring of the heart muscle may be prevented.

“Radiofrequency ablation using this new technology generally is recommended for patients who experience arrhythmias such as atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia,” says Dr. Hariharan.