Saint Francis Offers New Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

(Hartford, Conn.  December 23, 2014) – Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center is now using a robotic navigation system to deliver an innovative new ablation procedure treatment for atrial fibrillation, the only Connecticut hospital currently performing this procedure. The treatment helps patients’ hearts maintain a normal rhythm with a therapy that uniquely targets and treats abnormal impulses of the heart.  

One in four Americans has atrial fibrillation. It generally affects people age 35 and older. When the heart does not beat normally, shortness of breath, palpitations and dizziness can result. Medications can help, but may have unpleasant side effects, said Aneesh Tolat, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Saint Francis.  

“A heart in atrial fibrillation is like a car engine that isn’t tuned,” Tolat said. “It can lead to inefficiency.” 

The new technique is called FIRM (Focal Impulse Rotor Modulation) ablation. It works like this: After the patient is sedated, the physician places a highly flexible basket catheter through a blood vessel in the groin into both the right and left atria of the heart. The catheter records the electrical activity of the heart, targeting the location of critical areas that allow for existence of the atrial fibrillation. The doctor then performs a cardiac ablation procedure in which the doctor burns, or “ablates,” the areas of the heart that are specifically responsible for the abnormal electrical activity.  

In the past, doctors ablated atrial fibrillation by burning the tissue surrounding the pulmonary veins (called pulmonary vein isolation,) using a radiofrequency (RF) catheter. This technique did not precisely pinpoint the exact trouble spots for patients, relying on a more generalized approach, with success only about 70% percent of the time. 

This new Topera Mapping System provides physicians a diagnostic tool that, for the first time, identifies and locates unique, patient-specific rotors, believed to be a sustaining mechanism of cardiac arrhythmias. Studies have shown that the elimination of disruptive rotors can produce excellent, long-term results with a single procedure. 

In published studies, cardiac ablations with Topera technology have demonstrated a long-term success rate of up to 82%, even in patients who are normally difficult to treat with the traditional procedure. 

“This technology is potentially a real game changer,” Tolat said.  

Between the safety of a Stereotaxis robotic navigation system and the addition of a newer technique targeting rotors (FIRM ablation) for atrial fibrillation ablation, some 2.7 million Americans now have a new option for treatment of their atrial fibrillation.  

About Saint Francis Care 

Saint Francis Care is an integrated healthcare delivery system established by Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, an anchor institution in north central Connecticut since 1897.  Licensed for 617 beds and 65 bassinets, it is a major teaching hospital and the largest Catholic hospital in New England.  Other major entities of Saint Francis Care include The Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, the Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute, the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute of Connecticut, the Saint Francis/Mount Sinai Regional Cancer Center, the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research, and Saint Francis HealthCare Partners.  Johnson Memorial Medical Center, parent organization of Johnson Memorial Hospital, Evergreen Health Care Center, and Home and Community Health Services is also a Saint Francis Care Partner.  Saint Francis Care’s services are supported by a network of seven major Access Centers and eight additional medical office centers sited throughout the region.  For more information, visit