St. Vincent’s Doctors Leading Southeast in Reducing Surgical Radiation
With three generations of women in her family who have battled breast cancer, Tiffany Kirkham has seen the effects of radiation firsthand. Kirkham was prepared to undergo whatever treatment necessary if she was similarly diagnosed, but she never thought she’d encounter radiation on a different front — in a battle against heart disease.
Kirkham, a 34-year-old active mother of four, was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (Afib), the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. She was referred to Drs. Saumil Oza and Anthony Magnano, cardiac electrophysiologists at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside with Diagnostic Cardiology Associates. When medicine failed to correct Kirkham’s Afib, the doctors recommended catheter ablation, a procedure that isolates and cauterizes the portion of the heart that is causing the arrhythmia. St. Vincent’s is one of only eight hospitals nationally that serve as active educational centers to teach experienced physicians to use 3D ultrasound mapping techniques that gradually reduce radiation levels during procedures.
“We always have to be careful of the radiation levels we expose our patients to before, during and after surgery whether they’ve been exposed to high levels of radiation prior to the procedure or not,” Dr. Oza said. “The techniques we’re using not only decrease radiation, but also increase the quality of care during the procedure because we’re working with a 3D image of the heart instead of the traditional 2D image.”
Dr. Oza said that five years ago, the catheter ablation techniques he utilized could include up to two CT scans and 60 minutes of fluoroscopy to position catheters, techniques that are commonplace in ablation procedures. After adding up the sum radiation level of this approach, Dr. Oza and his team recognized that it could equate to a roughly .01 percent increase in lifetime risk of cancer. In other words, one in 1,000 patients may get cancer someday because of the radiation emitted during that specific procedure. Dr. Oza and his team conduct nearly 400 catheter ablations per year, which equates to one person facing the plight of cancer every two and a half years.
With the help of cutting-edge technology, Dr. Oza and his team found a way to save that one life by utilizing the CARTO 3 System. They can eliminate the CT scan and decrease the time of fluoroscopy dramatically, with the majority of procedures in the range of just two to six minutes. The CARTO 3 System is the next generation 3D mapping system from Biosense Webster, allowing physicians to see the catheter ablation procedure from inside the patient and providing doctors the ability to complete the procedure with more anatomical detail.
Kirkham says the low levels of radiation emitted during her catheter ablation procedure added a level of comfort when going through the process.
“I have three generations of women in my family who have battled breast cancer, so I was always very aware of the effects of radiation,” Kirkham said. “The techniques the doctors at St. Vincent have used allowed me to treat my Afib without risking my health. I can’t thank them enough.”
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