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Arrhythmia Center Offers Centralized Care, Newest Technique to Treat Atrial Fibrillation

Boston Medical Center's new Arrhythmia Center within
the Cardiovascular Center offers state-of-the-art,
minimally invasive technology that gives doctors new
surgical treatment options that minimize the risks
associated with heart procedures.

Irregular heart rhythm is one of the most common cardiac conditions in adults. Though heart arrhythmias, as they are known, have many different causes, most can be successfully managed. And while the symptoms of arrhythmia can be unsettling and uncomfortable, patients can take comfort in the fact that in most cases they are not life-threatening. If properly monitored and treated, arrhythmia patients can expect to live normal lives.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common of the arrhythmias and occurs in the upper chamber of the heart (the atria) when the muscles of the atria fail to work in syncopation. Treatments for AF and other arrhythmias range from medications to various surgical procedures, including implantable defibrillators that use small electric impulses to “shock” the heart back to normal rhythm. Other surgical procedures include removal of small groups of cells believed to be the source of the electrical abnormality (ablation) that causes many arrhythmias and the implantation of cardiac pacemakers.

To better coordinate arrhythmia treatment and maximize convenience for patients, Boston Medical Center has established a new, state-of-the-art Arrhythmia Center within the Cardiovascular Center. “At the Arrhythmia Center, monitoring, evaluation, treatment and, if necessary, surgery, recovery, and follow-up occur in one convenient location,” says Kevin Monahan, M.D., director of the Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia Service at BMC and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “By centralizing arrhythmia care, we have the resources to manage and treat the whole range of heart rhythm disorders.”
While many arrhythmia patients can be successfully treated with medications, the Arrhythmia Center also features a new minimally invasive technology that gives doctors new surgical treatment options that minimize the risks associated with heart procedures.

“The heart is a delicate organ,” says Dr. Monahan, “and by definition heart surgery of any kind is a delicate procedure.”

To minimize the risks associated with certain surgical procedures to treat arrhythmias, BMC has adopted a new technology made by St. Louis-based Stereotaxis. Called the Gentle Touch Magnetic System, the technology uses computer and magnetically guided catheters to reach deep into the heart while minimizing the risk of damage that can occur when a catheter makes contact with the delicate structures of the heart. In addition to its utility for treating certain arrhythmias, the system is also useful for treating a variety of heart ailments including heart failure and coronary artery disease.

“The technology allows us to reach remote areas of the heart that were difficult, if not impossible, for us to access in the past,” says Dr. Monahan who used the system earlier this year to perform the first magnetically guided ablation (removal of cell tissue) to treat atrial fibrillation in New England. Normal heart rhythm was restored in a 40 year- old man with congestive heart failure who had been in atrial fibrillation for several years.

“In medicine, we always strive to make surgical procedures shorter, safer and more comfortable for the patient,” adds Dr. Monahan. “The Stereotaxis system reduces x-ray exposure, shortens the procedure, and reduces the risk of complications and recovery time.”

“Exceptional care without exception is BMC’s commitment to every patient,” says Dr. Monahan, “and the creation of the Arrhythmia Center and the introduction of the Stereotaxis system are further proof of that. They are helping to keep BMC at the forefront of cardiac care.”

For more information about BMC’s Arrhythmia Center, or to refer a patient, call 617.638.8776, email cardiovascularcenter@bmc.org, or visit our website at www.bmc.org/arrhythmia.