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  • Centennial Researchers Develop New Computerized Catheter

     Atrial fibrillation is a heart disorder that affects more than two million Americans, and is considered a key contributor to blood clots and stroke. Now researchers from North Carolina State University are developing a new computerized catheter that could make the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation faster, cheaper and more effective – while significantly decreasing radiation exposure related to the treatment.

    “We are developing a robotic catheter with significantly improved maneuverability and control,” says Dr. Gregory Buckner, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State and lead researcher of the team developing the new catheter. “This should reduce the time needed to perform atrial ablation procedures and improve patient outcomes.”

     A new robotic catheter utilizes “smart materials” to provide significantly better maneuverability, which is expected to reduce operating times.

     Atrial fibrillation occurs when there is random electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart, the atria. This causes the heart to operate less efficiently, and can lead to lightheadedness and fatigue. It can also lead to blood pooling in the heart, which contributes to blood clots and increased risk of stroke.

     Doctors have developed a cardiac ablation technique that mitigates fibrillation by inserting a catheter into the heart and then using extreme heat or cold to create small scars  through the walls of the affected atria. These scars block the problematic electrical signals. Throughout this procedure, doctors use X-rays to track the tip of the catheter – exposing the patient and medical personnel to radiation.

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