(HARTFORD, Conn.) - Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center is one of two U.S. hospitals now employing a new type of catheter in the treatment of arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms.

An arrhythmia is a disorder of the heart's electrical system. Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly experienced arrhythmia, affecting approximately 2.2 million Americans. In this abnormality, the two upper left chambers of the heart, called the atria, vibrate ineffectively and fail to completely pump blood. According to the American Heart Association, one-fifth of all strokes result from atrial fibrillation.

To address this condition, the NaviStar RMT ThermoCool® catheter employs radiofrequency (RF) ablation procedures performed with the Stereotasis Magnetic Navigation System. The Sterotaxis system uses computer guidance to maneuver the catheter to the precise location in the heart where RF energy is then applied to eliminate the source of the arrhythmia.

"This new catheter maintains a temperature of no more than 42 degrees Celsius. The catheters previously employed in RF ablation procedures reached 65 degrees Celsius, which potentially could cause blood clots on heart tissue," said Neal Lippman, M.D., the attending electrophysiologist who recently performed the procedure with the catheter, its first use on the East Coast.

The new catheter maintains the lower temperature by spraying cooled saline solution during the procedure.

"Saint Francis was the first hospital in northern Connecticut to acquire the Sterotaxis system. Being second in the country and first on the East Coast to employ the ThermoCool catheter is a demonstration of our continued leadership in cardiology," said Dr. Lippman.

Founded in 1897, Saint Francis is a major teaching hospital licensed for 617 acute inpatient beds and 65 bassinets. It is the largest Catholic hospital in New England.