New tech could target and treat irregular heartbeats

The tech behind a new study may help cardiologists double their success in treating heart arrhythmias by pinpointing the tiny electrical disturbances that cause them.

The eye of a hurricane (left) bears some resemblance to the localized source of an arrhythmia (right) in a patient with atrial fibrillation. In a new study, ablation targeting these rotors successfully stopped the arrhythmia. UCSD/UCLA

Researchers are reporting that they have found, for the first time, that tiny electrical spinning tops ("rotors") within the heart cause atrial fibrillation (AF), a type of arrhythmia in which the heartbeat is faster and irregular.

What's more, they found that by targeting the so-called eye of the storm, they could actually slow or even terminate the AF, the multidisciplinary team from UC San Diego, UCLA, and Indiana University reports in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Today, catheter ablation is a common therapy used to treat AF, but because the sources of these arrhythmias have been so elusive, its success has been limited.

About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.


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