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New heart op to be performed remotely--in 3D

Doctor will try to be the first to remotely fix an irregular heartbeat using a robotic arm and 3D mapping system, six months after conducting a similar remote surgery.

A cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England, tomorrow will try to perform the world's first heart procedure using a robotic arm paired with advanced 3D mapping to treat a 63-year-old patient with atrial fibrillation (or AF, the most common arrhythmia).

This CARTO-3 image of the left atrium shows the location of ablation lesions causing arrhythmia. University of Leicester

The procedure, which will incorporate use of the CARTO-3 mapping software, comes just six months after Dr. André Ng became the first to perform a remote catheter ablation using the hospital's Amigo Robotic Catheter System, and just eight years after the hospital began performing ablation to treat AF.

In the procedure, a surgeon (or bot) inserts thin wire catheters into the heart that direct energy to the parts of the heart causing the arrhythmia, thereby burning the faulty tissue and disconnecting that pathway.

While catheter ablation has become the most common way to treat patients with AF--the hospital alone performs 200 a year--it is a long and imperfect procedure. So Ng and his team developed the robotic arm system, controlled from the next room, to improve the procedure, avoid being in the X-ray zone, and render lead aprons a thing of the past.

By being the first in the world to use the Amigo Robotic Catheter System, the hospital is also the first to pair this system with the CARTO-3 3D mapping system, which is the latest version of a widely-used mapping and navigation system.

"It is hoped that using the two advanced technologies together would improve the efficacy and safety of these complex procedures," Ng says. "The versatility of the new Amigo system also allows for cross-platform use of different types of catheters and different mapping systems, which greatly enhance treatment options."

Working with the University of Leicester and the Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, Ng plans to lead two clinical research trials at Glenfield Hospital should Tuesday's procedure prove successful.