First atrial flutter patient treated with novel MRI ablation catheter

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The Department of Internal Medicine and the Institute of Radiology of Würzburg University Hospital, Germany, have jointly announced the successful treatment of a patient with atrial flutter utilising an advanced new ablation catheter which is uniquely able to be used with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The procedure was performed by cardiologists Oliver Ritter, Peter Nordbeck and Wolfgang Rudolf Bauer, and the radiologist Meinrad Beer. These physicians with Herbert Köstler and Thomas Pabst from the Department of Medical Physics of the Institute of Radiology of Würzburg University Hospital, developed an optimised MRI procedure which allows the visualisation of the catheter with high temporal resolution inside the patient’s beating heart.

“This groundbreaking new technology represents a paradigm change in the field of electrophysiology,” commented Bauer. “This is an important new application in clinical magnetic resonance imaging,” said Beer.

The standard procedure for performing an ablation involves the use of fluoroscopy. However, the visualisation of anatomy is suboptimal in comparison to MRI and the radiation is potentially harmful to both the patient and the physician performing the procedure. MRI offers a much more detailed view of the anatomy, enabling better therapy delivery, and the magnetic fields involved do not put the patient and physician at risk of radiation exposure. Therefore research in developing MRI-compatible therapies is of major interest worldwide.

Today, standard ablation catheters are not MRI-compatible. The electromagnetic fields aversely react with most catheters in such a way that they cannot be effectively used or even add additional risk for the patient. The development of this novel catheter specially designed for use in this MRI-controlled ablation procedure could therefore represent a significant new opportunity for improved therapy of complex cardiac arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation.

“The ability to treat complex arrhythmias may be significantly improved due to the safety advantages offered by MRI versus conventional fluoroscopic imaging methods,” commented Ritter.

This device is the result of a combined effort amongst Würzburg University Hospital, the University of Würzburg, the Magnetic Resonance Bavaria e.V., the Erwin Hahn Institute Essen, the University of Erlangen, VascoMed and Biotronik.