Several Lorain County hearts are beating easier today, thanks to exciting new cardiac care technologies available at Mercy. The Lorain County-based health system recently added both the world’s smallest insertable cardiac monitor and an advanced heart mapping system to its cardiology program. Both advances allow for faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmia, a potentially dangerous condition that affects millions of people each year.
Cardiac arrhythmia occurs when the electrical impulses that cause the heart muscle to contract happen too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. While most arrhythmias are harmless, some can lead to complications like sudden cardiac arrest or stroke. For this reason, prompt diagnosis and treatment — often with medications, implantable devices or minimally invasive surgery — is essential.
Unfortunately, arrhythmias can be very difficult for cardiologists to study because they often stop before the patient reaches the emergency room or doctor’s office. For this reason, patients with infrequent or suspected arrhythmias are often prescribed portable monitoring devices to measure and record their hearts’ electrical activity. In the past, the only option was an external device connected to the skin via wires. New implantable devices relieved some of the inconvenience and discomfort, but required surgery for placement and removal.
All of that changed when electrocardiologist Alberto Diaz, MD, became the first Lorain County physician to implant the Reveal Linq Insertable Cardiac Monitoring System in a patient at Mercy Regional Medical Center. Reveal Linq, which is manufactured by the Minneapolis-based firm Medtronic, is currently the smallest implantable cardiac event monitor available. It’s brand new on the market, having just received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in February. Once implanted under the skin of the upper abdomen, Reveal Linq records heart rhythms continuously for up to three years and transmits its findings in real time via cellular technology.
Reveal Linq has many benefits for patients. For one, it’s 87 percent smaller than the previous generation of implantable cardiac event monitors — about one-third the size of a triple-A battery. Implantation requires no incision or stitches and can be performed at the bedside under light sedation.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of Reveal Linq is its integrated cellular system, which captures and transmits data on brief arrhythmias that may be missed during an office visit. Using wireless technology, the device can alert the patient’s care team when an arrhythmia is occurring — even if the patient is sleeping at the time. This allows the team to treat harmful arrhythmias immediately before they become life-threatening. Patients can enjoy greater freedom of movement and even travel during monitoring.
An electrophysiologic (EP) study is another method used to diagnose suspected or infrequent arrhythmias. With the patient under local anesthetic, an electrocardiologist threads tubes called catheters through the veins of the arms and legs into the heart muscle. Electrodes in these catheters record electrical impulses as they travel throughout the heart creating a 3D map of its electrical activity. The physician can also deliver brief electrical pulses through the electrodes to trigger and stop arrhythmias. In addition to pinpointing the source and type of the arrhythmia, EP is often used to test the effectiveness of anti-arrhythmia medications.
To make EP studies faster and more accurate than ever before, Mercy recently acquired the EnSite Velocity Mapping System by St. Jude Medical — one of the most advanced cardiac mapping technologies currently available. Unlike older machines that map data from one electrode one at a time, EnSite can map up to 128 electrodes simultaneously. Advanced imaging software allows providers to compare real-time images side-by-side with footage recorded earlier in the procedure.
Another major advantage of EnSite over older systems is that it’s non-fluoroscopic, meaning no x-rays are used during the procedure. This protects arrhythmia patients from the potential health risks of repeated and prolonged radiation exposure.
Irene Gonzales-Miller, director of Mercy’s cardiopulmonary services, says the two new technologies represent a major step forward for heart care in Lorain County. “Mercy’s investment in this cutting-edge technology is another example of our commitment to leading the way in diagnosing and treating abnormal heart rhythms,” she says. “The enhanced mapping capabilities enable our physicians to better plan and execute complicated cardiac procedures in a timely and efficient manner — qualities that our patients have come to expect from Mercy.”
For more information on cardiac care at Mercy, please visit us online at http://www.mercyonline.org/heart.aspx. To schedule an appointment with a Mercy cardiologist near you, call 1-877-930-DOCS.