Technology & Innovations
Balloon Catheters/Cryoballoon Catheters
One of the most exciting, important new technologies for A-Fib patients is the recently FDA approved CryoBalloon Catheter. The balloon system can be used to fit into a Pulmonary Vein opening, then ablate it with a minimum number of lesions.
Arctic Cryoballoon Catheter
This could be a vast improvement over current RF catheters which use pinpoint lesions to perform large-area ablations in a point-by-point fashion and which require a great deal of operator skill and manual dexterity. CryoBalloon ablations might become easier and faster to do than RF.
Using the energy source Cryo to make ablations may also be a major improvement for A-Fib patients. Cryo uses very cold temperatures to freeze tissue to create lesions without the vaporization, charring, and tissue damage of RF. It preserves heart tissue integrity rather than burning it. When cold temperatures are applied, Cryo catheters stick to the heart tissue they touch, much like a tongue on cold metal. Since the heart is beating and in constant motion during an ablation, this is a significant advantage. And Cryo produces no crust formations. RF burns can cause a crust to form over the ablated area (called a “thrombus”). This crust can fall off and lodge in a blood vessel, perhaps causing a blood clot and stroke. (That’s one of the reasons blood thinners like heparin are used during RF ablations, to prevent these blood clots.)
CryoBalloon Safer for Patients
In the clinical trials, the CryoBalloon catheter was safer for patients. There were no strokes, no pulmonary vein stenosis, no esophageal injury, and no coronary artery injury as sometimes occurs with RF ablation. There is also little danger of perforation and tamponade with the CryoBalloon catheter.
For a more detailed look at these new technologies, see Drs. Burkhardt and Natale’s article from which most of this report is taken: Burkhardt, JD, Natale, A. “New Technologies in Atrial Fibrillation Ablation,” Circulation. 2009;120:1533-1541. Last accessed Jan 11, 2013. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/120/15/1533?eaf
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Last updated: Sunday, February 15, 2015