An Indian-origin researcher has developed novel epicardial ablation techniques that may help treat the heart from the outside, without breaking through the organ's tissue.
"The heart is surrounded by a one-millimeter wide, fluid-filled sac - that, by the way, you can't even see on X-ray," said Mahapatra, an assistant professor of internal medicine and biomedical engineering at U.Va.
The new tools allow doctors to go through that sac to the epicardium - the heart's outermost tissue - without actually entering the heart, "reducing patients' risk and recovery time," he added.
The researcher has revealed that among the the new tools is an "epi-needle access system", which includes a retractable needle and a sensor capable of measuring the pressure and pressure frequency of surrounding tissues.
He says that the revolutionary access system, developed with George T. Gillies, requires only one 3-millimeter incision, making it much less invasive than surgical methods.
"Any time you reduce the risks of a procedure, as we have done with the epi-needle, you make treatment available to more people. Because this technology is less invasive, we can use it to treat people who are currently not being treated," Mahapatra said.
According to him, good news is that conditions like heart failure, atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia and oesophageal failure can be helped by the new epicardial technology.
Mahapatra further said that with its advanced precision, the epi-needle could also be used for safer pacemaker insertion, ablation techniques, stem cell delivery and drug delivery throughout the body, and it would reduce the risk of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation.
The epi-needle is the first of a suite of epicardial technologies developed by Mahapatra and Gillies and disclosed to the U.Va. Patent Foundation.
"We are fortunate here at U.Va. to have inventive medical doctors like Srijoy, who can foresee novel solutions to clinical needs. It is indeed a pleasure to work with him on these exciting technologies," said Gillies, research professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering.
Mahapatra reckons that the invention will turn out to be very important.
He encourages fellow clinicians to embark on paths to discovery through open, weekly discussions held in his office.
"I love taking a problem and solving it by creating a tool that you can use with your hands to help patients," he said.