When a patient experiences irregularities in the heart, doctors may treat them with cardiac ablations, a procedure that corrects heart rhythm problems by removing the tissue and cells in the heart causing the abnormal rhythm.
Traditionally, doctors have relied on long flexible tubes called catheters to deliver energy to the heart through extreme color or extreme heat--both of which target the tissues and cells causing the abnormal rhythm. The catheter is inserted into the groin and is threaded to the heart. This invasive procedure requires a sedative.
Before the cardiac ablation can begin, doctors first need to locate the abnormal cells causing atrial fibrillation. Catheters are also used to do this; doctors will generally inject dye into the catheter to better see your blood vessels during x-ray imaging. Their goal is to pinpoint the location or aberrant heart cells. However, a new non-invasive medical device is available that helps doctors better map the heart and locate aberrant cells—the CardioInsight Vest.
What is the CardioInsight Vest?
The CardioInsight Vest is a device that can map the electrical system of the heart. It is made of 252 electrodes and is produced by a medical device developer Medtronic. From abnormal heart rates to skipped beats, the goal of the CardioInsight Mapping vest is to distinguish the harmless cardiac anomalies from the fatal (and everything in between).
This device was developed, in part, to help treat atrial fibrillation (AFib). The vest makes it possible for doctors to pinpoint the problem cells that can eventually lead to heart failure or stroke. The CardioInsight Vest looks at every part of the heart, including the upper and lower chambers and gives doctors the chance to see how impulses are traveling in detail.
While an EKG will produce a picture of the heart, that picture leaves out some very important information. The CardioInsight vest provides a much clearer and broader picture. The vest also eliminates the use of catheters during the mapping process, which some patients prefer.
How does the CardioInsight Vest work?
Heart arrhythmias like AFib occur due to misfired electrical impulses. When these signals go awry, the heart can beat either too quickly, too slowly, or simply out of sync. The main culprits are aberrant cells causing arrhythmia.
The heart can be a tricky organ to diagnose, even under the best of circumstances. Abnormal cells can hide away from the eye, buried deep in the four chambers of the heart. When doctors know where they are, they can go into the body with utter precision.
The CardioInsight vest was invented to find the source of the irregularity in relation to the overall strength of the heart. (A normal resting heart will beat anywhere between 60 and 100 beats a minute.) It was designed to provide a more accurate map of the heart so doctors could better locate and remove abnormal cells.
The vest provides an electrode test of the heart. It takes information from the surface of the body and then connects it to the electrical activity occurring within the heart and torso. The vest pulls electrocardiogram (ECG) signals from the heart and then combines them with a computed tomography (CT) scan. This produces a 3D image of the heart that clearly shows the four chambers.
The CardioInsight Mapping vest is designed to easily fit patients, flexible enough for all ages, genders, and body shapes. The technology contours to the chest and torso to achieve simultaneous mapping across the atria and ventricles. It can also be worn for extended periods of time, allowing doctors to monitor transient arrhythmia which occurs during small windows of time.
Benefits of the CardioInsight Vest
The goal of the CardioInsight Vest is to provide doctors with the exact location of the problem. Before the vest, the best way to go beyond an EKG was to opt for catheter treatment. These devices were inserted into the blood vessel through the groin area. The catheter would then have to be threaded up to the heart to make contact with the different areas that doctors wanted to monitor.
These catheters could help doctors understand the spatial relations and electrical forces at work in a patient. However, a catheter can only touch so many places on the heart, leaving some areas under mapped or even blank. These incomplete results didn't always represent the true activity that was taking place under the rib cage. In addition, the procedure carried some degree of risk to the patient, including bleeding or clotting.
The CardioInsight vest is a non-invasive AFIb treatment for mapping the heart and detecting abnormal tissues or cells. It uses 250 electrodes to record and locate electrical malfunctions, a much broader vantage than the catheter method.
The vest is perfectly timed to reach different parts of the heart and trigger different responses. For example, the pulse from the vest can cause the upper chambers of the heart to beat a fraction of a second before the lower chambers. The three panels, located in the front right, front left, and back of the vest, are connected to the CardioInsight Workstation. These programmed sections relay data back to the doctor in the form of the 3D map.
If doctors are going to kill the cells that cause the irregularities, they need to know exactly where they are. To identify the problem, they look at the images produced by the vest before moving forward with cardiac ablation. This can help give patients with AFib a better chance at a healthier heart.
How reliable is the CardioInsight Mapping Vest?
This high-tech vest has gone through many rounds of testing. Medtronic worked with multiple iterations of the software to ensure it met the company's high standards. Many cardiologists who have used have found the results to be accurate, including the qualified staff at AnMed Health.
The CardioInsight Mapping Vest is the first effective non-invasive electrical mapping system that patients can opt for instead of the standard catheterization treatment or EKG. It's also more versatile than a catheter, as it allows more flexibility for patients to move around. The CardioInsight Vest can be worn for hours, whether it's on a treadmill, a lab table, or in the scanner.
Another key feature that makes the vest more reliable is that it allows the patient to be alert during the mapping. Certain arrhythmias are suppressed by anesthesia, so being awake makes it possible to find them.
The complexity and quality of the diagram better allow doctors to see the big picture activity taking place within and across the heart. In many cases, this is the first time that a physician can develop a deeper understanding of the vital organ. Doctors count on the data from the vest so they can target only the problem cells and leave the healthy ones alone.
Are there any risks associated with the CardioInsight Vest?
Because the CardioInsight Vest can be worn on the body, the risks associated with the device are minimal. The much larger risk is for patients to ignore a heart abnormality. If your heart races when you have to give a big presentation or after you've just sprinted a mile, this is not a cause for concern. But if your heart behaves erratically for no reason at all, it's time to visit a healthcare professional.
The consequences of AFib total about 130,000 deaths per year. This non-invasive procedure makes it possible for patients to get a better understanding of their health without having to subject themselves to a catheter.
Physicians will still need catheters for the ablation procedure, using either freezing or radiofrequency heat to kill the cells, but there's less risk involved when they know exactly where to maneuver the device. There's also a better chance that the ablation will work. After the problem electrical impulses are destroyed, the irregularities should cease.
Why AnMed Health?
AnMed Health was one of the first hospitals to implement this groundbreaking CardioInsight vest and it’s an example of how our hospital adopts the latest technology that will enhance and improve patient care.
For over 100 years, AnMed Health has delivered comprehensive care, including specialized care for cardiac conditions. With a staff of more than 400 physicians, we are a leading healthcare provider in South Carolina and Georgia. We treat patients in a state-of-the-art Heart and Vascular Center staffed by multidisciplinary specialists who can provide the very best care, from open-heart surgery to heart rhythm disorders.
Whether you're concerned about premature ventricular tachycardia or you're looking for non-invasive atrial fibrillation treatment in Anderson, we're here to answer your questions and walk you through the procedure.