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Imaging Makes Heart Rhythm Surgery Safer

'ICE' provides surgeons with real-time view of the esophagus

FRIDAY, Aug. 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- An imaging technique called intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) may reduce the risk of esophageal injury in people undergoing heart procedures, U.S. researchers report.

This study included 152 patients who underwent a procedure called left atrial catheter ablation for the heart-rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used ICE to provide real-time images of the esophagus, so they could gauge the power, temperature and duration of the ablation and monitor the development of lesions and other potential complications of the intervention.

This is the first study to use ICE to identify the esophagus and monitor lesions (atrio-esophageal fistulas) on the posterior wall of the heart's left atrium, the researchers said.

"ICE imaging could be a valuable tool to protect patients from esophageal injury and help physicians do no harm. Although this complication is rare, it results in high mortality," researcher Dr. Francis Marchlinksi, director of the university's electrophysiology program, said in a prepared statement.

The findings were published in the September issue of the journal Heart Rhythm.

An accompanying editorial noted that while ICE shows promise, this study doesn't prove that ICE will prevent esophageal injury. More studies are needed, wrote Dr. Hugh Calkins, professor of medicine and director of the electrophysiology lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

More information

The Heart Rhythm Society has more about cardiac ablation.

SOURCE: Heart Rhythm Society, news release, Aug. 22, 2006
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