Heartbeats now in 3D, no special glasses required

Rhythmia receives FDA clearance in cardiac catheter ablations to diagnose or treat heartbeat abnormalities.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
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.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
The Rhythmia Mapping System automates 3D mapping during cardiac ablation procedures, increasing the speed and density of mapping when compared to existing systems. Boston Scientific

When surgeons thread a catheter through a vein to the heart -- a procedure called cardiac ablation -- they are relying on electrodes at the catheter's tip to listen to the heart's electrical activity and find the source of -- and hopefully fix -- any heartbeat irregularities.

Now, a new system called the Rhythmia Mapping System, recently bought by Boston Scientific, translates that activity into a 3D map of the heart as it pumps blood. The system received FDA 510(k) clearance in the U.S., only months after receiving the similar CE Mark of approval in Europe.

In clinical trials, Rhythmia cut the time it takes to map electrical activity in half, Boston Scientific's Peter Sommerness told Fast Company last fall. A 64-electrode catheter tracks the heart's shape and electrical signals as it beats, and then the system's software turns that data into a 3D map of the organ. The idea is to help surgeons and physicians spot abnormalities right down to the precise section of muscle where the electrical activity is disrupted.

Boston Scientific says it will likely launch the Rhythmia system to limited markets this year and in full in 2014.

Fifteen million or so patients in the world suffer from atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia when the heart beats quickly and erratically.

The original developers have been working on Rhythmia since 2004.

Now that Rhythmia is market ready, we will soon have a better view of its actual usefulness as surgeons do or don't turn to the new tool during these procedures.