Hospital to perform remote-controlled heart operation

2 min read

The world’s first remote heart procedure, using a robotic arm and 3D mapping, is due to take place at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester today.

It comes six months after Dr Andre Ng, senior lecturer at Leicester University and consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Glenfield, carried out the first remote catheter ablation procedure using the Amigo Robotic Catheter System.

Ng will today use the robotic arm in combination with advanced 3D mapping to fix an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AF). The patient is a 63-year-old Derbyshire man.

AF is the commonest heart rhythm disturbance seen in clinical practice, with more than half a million sufferers in the UK. It also increases the risk of a person having a stroke by five times and doubles the risk of death.

Catheter ablation is carried out by hand, can take several hours and results can be variable. The robotic system is best suited for this type of ablation. Glenfield Hospital started ablation for AF, treating 25 patients in 2002, increasingly steadily to more than 200 in 2009.

Catheter ablation procedures involve inserting thin-wire catheters into the groin and up to the heart. Electrodes on the catheters help to identify the cause of the heart rhythm problem. Once identified, the doctor can place one of the catheters at the location of the problem and ablate the tissue.

Ng said: ‘The new Amigo robotic system we have at Glenfield is unique and a new improved version of the original system, which can now be used with different types of catheters… especially allowing the combination with the CARTO-3 3D mapping system.

‘CARTO-3 is the latest version of the established and widely used advanced mapping and navigation system, which displays and guides precise location of catheter positions in 3D space. We are the first centre in the world to use this new Amigo system and hence the first to be able to combine the two cutting-edge technologies together for the ablation procedure.’

Ng and his team are involved in the evaluation and development of this robotic arm system. The initial experience has demonstrated that the doctor can use the Amigo to move catheters via the remote controller safely in an adjacent room outside the X-ray zone, thereby reducing the radiation exposure and eliminating the need for wearing heavy lead aprons.

Ng is to conduct two clinical research trials at Glenfield on the safety and efficacy of the Amigo system in electrophysiology and ablation procedures with the support of Leicester University and the Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit.

For some, the development of robots to assist in, or even perform, surgery is alarming, but the machines are being designed for actions which they can perform better and more reliably than the human hand while remaining under a surgeon’s control. Click here to read more.