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Physicians Update

 
Summer 2010

Computer Modeling Advances Technique

07/14/2010

A major advance driving the treatment of atrial fibrillation forward, both from a clinical and research standpoint, is computer modeling. “Computer facilitation imaging, integrated with imaging modalities, has revolutionized the ability for the electrophysiologist to determine which areas need to be ablated,” says James N. Weiss, M.D., chief of the Division of Cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

He explains that with current systems, the catheter used for ablation can include a magnetic sensor that enables the electrophysiologist to identify within a millimeter where the catheter tip is located in the heart. “You can create a map of the inside of the heart and record electrical activity at each location from the tip of the catheter — those areas that have very slow conduction, where the abnormal impulses arise,” Dr. Weiss says. “With this virtual image of the inside of the heart, the electrophysiologist can determine which areas need to be ablated.”

Dr. Weiss’ group is involved in computer modeling to better understand the mechanisms that underlie abnormal heart rhythms so that strategies can be developed to prevent them. Ultimately, he says, computer models may be able to simulate electrical activity, allowing clinicians to use the models as a tool to plot the best course for preventing the arrhythmias.

“Creating a virtual heart that would correspond to a specific patient requires highly sophisticated computing power and is still being developed,” Dr. Weiss says, “but at some point it’s going to become an important new tool that will help to refine the technique of catheter ablation.”





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