St Mary’s take Sensei to heart

St Mary’s Hospital in London is pioneering the world’s first robot able to navigate the human heart during a popular procedure to eliminate a heart rhythm disorder.


St Mary’s Hospital

in London is pioneering the world’s first robot able to navigate the human heart during a popular procedure to eliminate a heart rhythm disorder.

The robotic device, used to treat the world’s most common heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation (AF), could dramatically reduce clinical risk for patients. The advancement has the potential to simplify complex procedures and not only increase patient safety but also the availability of the procedure.

The Sensei Robotic Catheter system, from Hansen Medical, was launched globally in May with St Mary’s announced as the world’s first centre for training and development. So far, more than 20 St Mary’s patients have already been operated on by the robotic surgical hand, which is controlled by a doctor from a nearby console station.

AF, which produces a fast and irregular heart beat, is a major cause of strokes and heart failure and has been calculated to cost the NHS almost one per cent of its entire annual budget.

For many patients, a catheter ablation is the most effective way of treating AF, however a shortage of clinicians able to perform these complex procedures contributes to thousands living with the condition and its associated risks. Every year in the UK more than 50,000 people develop AF, but less than 10 per cent undergo catheter ablation.

The non-invasive procedure involves inserting several thin wires and tubes into the heart through veins and arteries. When carefully placed at target sites, various energies are delivered to destroy the tiny areas of heart muscle, identified as the cause of the rhythm abnormality. The robot is said to enable the stable positioning and control of these thin wires, often in locations that are difficult to reach and stabilise.

St Mary’s is home to the world’s first Sensei robot

St Mary’s Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Wyn Davies, said the robot has enormous potential to help deliver difficult catheter ablation procedures.

‘In the UK a shortage of expertise means there are too few centres where highly complex cases can be carried out. With further development that we are already embarking on, this robot will enable complex procedures to be carried out almost automatically, increasing the opportunities to treat more patients and ultimately reducing clinical risk.’