Dr Sabine Ernst, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, has featured in Al Jazeera health innovations programme ‘The Cure’ performing a catheter ablation on a faulty heart rhythm using a magnetic navigation system.
In this innovative procedure, Dr Ernst steers the catheter through the delicate heart chambers using giant magnets, which allows for high precision. The programme shows the procedure performed on Debbie, a patient at Royal Brompton Hospital, who was born with a heart defect.
The magnetic navigation system operates on low power magnetic fields that “steer” a very soft magnetically-equipped ablation catheter. Due to its flexibility, the magnetic ablation catheter can reach sites that are difficult to access or are completely inaccessible using conventional techniques.
The main advantages are increased clinical success and decreased risks of peri-procedural complications. One of the most easily measurable outcomes is the overall significant reduction in the use of radiation (x-rays).
In a case of a pregnant woman with a severe heart condition and permanent tachycardia, no x-rays at all were used and her tachycardia was successfully ablated using the magnetic navigation. The patient’s heart function improved significantly after the ablation allowing her to go to full term with her pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby boy.
The remote magnetic navigation system is based in the state-of–the-art catheter lab at Royal Brompton Hospital. The lead consultant is Dr Sabine Ernst, who is also the lead for electrophysiology (EP) research and a reader at Imperial College London. Since it was installed in April 2008, a number of physicians both from the UK and abroad have trained to use the system as well.