Microwaving diseased hearts goodbye

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has awarded researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney $161,500 to help commercialise a microwave cardiac ablation system.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) $161,500 to help commercialise a microwave cardiac ablation system.

The UTS team, led by that Dr. Ananda Mohan Sanagavarapu and Research Associate Heng-Mao Chiu (shown) of the Faculty of Engineering, has been working with the Department of Cardiology at Westmead Hospital to develop an improved method for selectively destroying diseased heart tissue, with the promise of a permanent cure for cardiac arrhythmias.

Dr. Sanagavarapu said the focus of the UTS work has been on the design and development of miniaturised microwave antennas for use in key-hole heart surgery.

He said that in the past abnormal heart rhythm disorders have typically been treated either by open-heart surgery, an option only for the most healthy and strong, or by drug therapy, which has only a 50% success rate and can have life-threatening side effects.

“Recently, surgeons have begun using a much less invasive technique, inserting electrodes into the heart by means of a catheter and applying radio frequency (RF) energy to remove diseased tissue,” Dr. Sanagavarapu said.

“However, RF energy has several limitations, including the risk of clot formation where the electrodes make contact with heart tissue.

“The use of microwave energy does not rely on tissue contact, it is easier to control and treatment can be pinpointed for maximum effectiveness.”The promise is a minimally invasive and cost effective treatment that cures the disorder and allows faster patient recovery.

“On top of that it will be available to people who could not have undergone open heart surgery and who previously would have been treated with drugs,” Dr. Sanagavarapu added.

The NHMRC backing has the ultimate aim of attracting an industry partner to take up the system.