Your heart beats approximately 100,000 times every day. It is one of the most complex and hardest working parts of your body. And because of all the work your heart does for you, it deserves the best care. Scripps physicians have been researching techniques and devices designed to help improve diagnosis, treatment and recovery from heart disease. Here are some of the innovations being studied:
When patients have an episode of irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia, they often have to wear a cumbersome heart monitor known as a Holter monitor. It consists of electrodes that are worn on the skin with wires, known as leads, which connect them to a separate recording device. A Holter monitor is only worn for 24-48 hours because it interferes with showering and exercising. A new device called the Zio Patch is worn like a bandage for one-to-two weeks. It’s smaller and can collect more data on the heart’s rhythm for a more accurate diagnosis. When the patch no longer sticks, the patient just drops it in the mail so the data can be analyzed and sent to their doctor.
Scripps and Kaiser Permanente physicians teamed up to be the first in San Diego to treat atrial fibrillation with a new technique called cryoablation. An ablation is a treatment where a small tube—called a catheter — is guided through the blood vessels to the heart where they can destroy the cells that are interfering with the heart’s natural rhythm. In a traditional ablation, heat is used to destroy the faulty cells of the heart. Cryoablation uses a cooling agent to freeze the cells. This new technique offers greater stability of the catheter, which may minimize the damage to surrounding healthy cells.
A new device called the Lariat Suture Delivery Device can help protect patients with atrial fibrillation (afib) from developing a stroke. Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood to pool in a part of the heart called the left atrial appendage. When the blood pools, it can develop clots that can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. Afib patients often take blood thinners to prevent the formation of clots, however, blood thinners have many side effects and not everyone can tolerate them. With the Lariat device, an electrophysiologist uses a catheter to guide a lasso-like loop over the appendage to close it off and prevent blood from pooling, reducing the risk of stroke.
Electrophysiologists have started to use lasers to help remove faulty leads from implantable defibrillators. For patients with ventricular fibrillation, a type of heart rhythm disorder, an implantable defibrillator can sense a problem and deliver a mild electrical shock to restart a normal rhythm. However, when the wires between the defibrillator and the heart aren’t working properly, it can be dangerous. New laser technology helps physicians to safely remove scar tissue that naturally forms around the wires so they can be more easily removed for a safer recovery.
Hypertension — or high blood pressure — is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Blood pressure is controlled by nerves in the kidneys, which can become hyperactive and increase blood pressure. High blood pressure is usually managed by blood pressure medication. For some people, however, medication doesn’t work and they become what is called “resistant to treatment” and need another treatment option. This new, minimally invasive procedure allows the physician to guide a catheter into the arteries leading to the kidneys and deliver a pulse of energy to deactivate the hyperactive nerves surrounding the kidneys, helping to lower the blood pressure.
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