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Methodist first in Houston to use robot to treat irregular heart beats

Houston, TX - 3/18/2008

Dr. Miguel Valderrabano, cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, is the first in Houston to use a robotic catheter to treat irregular heart rhythms.

From a control panel across the room from the patient, Valderrabano uses a robotic handle similar to a joystick to maneuver tiny wires through the blood vessels and into the patient’s heart, where he can treat the heart’s abnormal electrical impulses called arrhythmias, with heat that stops the errant currents.

More than 2.5 million Americans have arrhythmias, which cause problems such as strokes. During atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia, the heart's upper chambers quiver instead of beating efficiently. The blood that isn’t pumped completely out of the chamber can pool and clot, potentially causing a stroke if it breaks off and lodges in the patient’s brain.

These catheter-based procedures are typically done manually. By using the robot, cardiologists have more control when reaching pinpoint places in the heart that cause the disease.

“Using the robot to control the movement of the catheter makes the procedure much more precise and safe. This is of vital importance, because our goal is to interrupt only the electrical impulses that have gone awry,” said Valderrabano, chief of the division of cardiac electrophysiology at The Methodist Hospital. “When we are successful with this minimally invasive procedure, we save patients from having surgery, and we prevent them from having to adhere to a rigorous medial regimen for the rest of their lives.”

The movement of the robot’s joystick is very intuitive for the cardiologist. Like the most advanced gaming systems, the technology incorporates tactile feedback for the cardiologist as he or she views visual feedback on high definition monitors in a catheterization lab.

For more information on the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, see www.debakeyheartcenter.com.