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Consultants at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals are using a new, groundbreaking technology to map the electrical signals of the heart.

Heart rhythm problems (known as arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses that control your heartbeats become disrupted, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

It is estimated that over one million people in the UK have an abnormal heart rate and this condition accounts for one in 10 visits to hospital. Although normally harmless, some types of arrhythmias can be dangerous. This is because they restrict blood flow to vital organs such as the heart or brain. According to Trudie Lobban, founder of the Arrhythmia Alliance charity, 80 per cent of deaths caused by arrhythmia could be avoided by better diagnosis.

Paving the way for accurate diagnosis

Traditionally, arrhythmia has been treated using electrophysiology testing and cardiac ablation.

Electrophysiology testing involves sending electric shocks to different parts of the heart to determine which parts are responsible for disrupting the heart’s rhythm. These parts are then burned away using cardiac ablation, creating scar tissue which can no longer transmit electrical signals.

The new ‘Rhythmia’ mapping technology has been developed to help physicians more accurately identify the heart’s problem areas in a faster period of time. The probe is fitted with dozens of electrodes that capture 20,000 pieces of data in 15 minutes, compared with only 500 in half an hour using a conventional device.

This data allows doctors to build a detailed three dimensional image of the heart on a computer to identify the precise section of muscle causing the problem. The rogue tissue can then be destroyed in a separate procedure immediately after doctors have ‘mapped’ the heart and identified the problem area.

Cutting edge mapping technology

RB&HH Specialist Care consultants Dr Tom Wong and Dr Vias Markides were amongst a small number of clinicians around the world to be involved in using and further developing this system, with outstanding early results.

Dr Wong comments: "This novel procedure is at the very cutting edge of three dimensional mapping technology. It allows electrophysiologists such as myself to identify the crux of the heart rhythm problems with an unprecedented resolution and efficiency. We hope this new system will help the hundreds of patients we see each year with both simple and complex arrhythmias."


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