The Heart of the Matter

In 1986 I underwent open heart surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat that was having a significant effect on my life. For the 30 years subsequent I had no further issues. Recently an aspect of the problem reoccured and I was treated using an updated procedure using Catheters. This is my story.

The original surgical procedure I had in 1986 required a full chest break, placing me on heart lung bypass machine for 4-5 hours, a ten day stay in intensive care, and 3-4 months off work. The recent catheter procedure required only a day stay, and 2 days of rest afterwards.

Both procedures require an initial mapping process to work out where the electrical pathways travel to delivery the pulse to the heart muscle. Once this is done the staff can determine where irregular pathways, or accessory pathways exist, and then remove or deactivate them. This process is called Ablation.

In the surgical procedure, Ablation is done with a scapel. In Catheter surgery, it is done with a high frequency ultrasonic device that effectively burns the pathway.

Once the accessory pathways are removed, the heart begins to beat in a normal way again. In some cases it needs to be reset first, but whatever, the patient is cured.

You can read more about Abalation here at the Mayo CLinic Website:

The Cool Stuff

I have included below some images taken from the computer that is used to manage the Catheter surgery. This is created from data input from a real time Xray device, and a series of markers created with magnets placed underneath the patient, to give extremely precise indications of the location of the Catheter in relation to the patient’s heart.

Precision is a key, and while the patient is normally awake, they are sedated to ensure no body movement occurs.

The image below is of my heart during the procedure, and is upside down. I’m not sure what the smiley face is at the top of the image, but maybe a goodwill avatar.

The next image is a video of my heart showing the propagation of the electrical pulses around the different chambers of the heart.

When I saw this it just blew me apart, as it makes you realise just how amazing our bodies are, and the way that they are constructed.

That’s it for now, I will be adding to this with some more details of the procedure, and how it benefits other people.