At the recent Heart Rhythm Society meeting, Vektor Medical reported unprecedented rates of success at mapping sources of arrhythmias with vMap, a noninvasive computational modeling system that reveals potential hot spots in less than three minutes.
In recent years, atrial fibrillation (AF) has become a popular target for start-up innovation, venture capital funding, and good exits to strategic acquirers. It certainly has the profile for a promising investment; the most common type of heart arrhythmia, AF is prevalent, affecting 9% of patients aged 65 and older (that’s approximately 60 million people on a global basis). The disease is potentially life-threatening—it increases a patient’s risk for stroke fivefold—and there is a gold standard to improve upon in catheter-based cardiac ablation. Yet for all the investment and advances in the field, outcomes remain unpredictable, with reported first-time ablation success rates of 40-80%. At best, one out of five patients will have to undergo at least one more heart procedure to stop their heart’s chaotic rhythms.
That 40-point gap between the lowest and highest reported efficacy rates reflects the numerous variables that challenge electrophysiologists: the nature of a patient’s heart disease, how long they’ve had AF, the experience of the clinician, and their success at finding and thoroughly treating all possible sources of arrhythmias.
The problem is twofold; first, locating the foci in the heart where arrhythmias originate, then, ablating the hot spots by scarring them by the delivery of energy—heat, cold, pulsed fields—to contain aberrant electrical patterns so they don’t propagate throughout the heart.