Doctors Use a Robot to Treat Hearts with Bad Rhythms

Doctors at Methodist Hospital are using a robot to treat irregular heart beats. Houston Public Radio's Pat Hernandez says some call it the wave of the future.

Methodist is one of two hospitals in Texas to use a robotic catheter to treat irregular heart rythms. Cardiologist Dr Miguel Valderrabano at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, uses a robotic handle similar to a joy-stick to manever tiny wires through the blood vessals and into the patient's heart, where he can treat the organ's abnormal electrical impulses called arrythmias, with heat...stopping the errant currents.

"The procedure has become very very high-tech. We have a GPS type of system that tracks the position of the catheter in three dimensions. Basically, we move with the joystick where we want the catheter to go, looking at our three dimensional maps and the X-ray, and the robot just takes it there."

He says the robot adds substantial improvement in precision of catheter manipulation. More than 2 and a half million americans have arrythmias, which cause problems such as strokes. Valderrabano says the technology aids the operator in that the robot helps dramatically achieve the procedural end point safely & quickly.

"Can you do anything with the robot that you could not do with your hands? No. The robot just helps you, but with your hands, you need to be extremely skilled to do this procedure as rapidly and effectively, and, with your hands, you're there standing, wearing lead and getting exposed to X-rays. So, it can help us be more effective and quicker at doing what we already did."

The updside, the robot helps doctors in a very intuitive way.

''It's not cost prohibitive it does add cost to the procedure. This procedure right now is so high-tech that it is an expensive procedure because the GPS three dimensional mapping system adds costs, the ablation catheters are not particularly cheap, we also use a cardiogram that is costly too, and this is expensive. It adds about a thousand dollars more to the procedure. "

Valderrabano says the new procedure will eventually take doctors to places they've never been before treating patients with other types of arrythmias.

Pat Hernandez, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...