Bringing hearts back to life to study faulty rhythms

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WPVI) -- Doctors are bringing parts of donated hearts back to life.

It's an effort to better understand - and fix - a type of irregular heartbeats called atrial fibrillation, or A-fib.

A team at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center inject a fluorescent dye into the upper heart chambers, then record the electrical activity with 4 highly-sensitive infrared cameras.

"It's amazing. You can see the heart beating back again," says Vadim Fedorov, Ph.D., of Ohio State's Department of Physiology and Cell Biology.

Current imaging systems take up to 200 recordings, but the high-tech infrared cameras can take 40-thousand 3-D images.

That gives a more detailed look at the heart's electrical system.

"We can see through the heart. We can see at many different depths," says Fedorov.

The improved mapping enables doctors to see more accurately where a patient's a-fib is centered.

That helps to target treatment, such as cardiac ablation, better.

One doctor says the new mapping helped one patient whose persistent afib couldn't be stopped.

Doctors were able to zero in on the spot causing his arrhythmia.

"I don't think that we would have been able to fix his atrial fibrillation without Vadim's work," says Dr. John Hummel, of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

With the current mapping techniques, they can only turn off the bad circuits 70-percent of the time.

Many patients have to have two or three treatments.

For some, the problem is never completely under control.

The new method aims at eliminating those extra procedures.
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