Health Team

UNC Hospitals among first to offer cardiac mapping

UNC Medical Center is among the first institution in the country to successfully treat patients using the new heart mapping system.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When the heart goes into an abnormal rhythm, it can become a life threatening problem. Sometimes patients have to undergo procedures that may or may not solve the problem.

University of North Carolina Hospitals is among the first institution in the country to successfully treat patients using the new heart mapping system.

Marcia Van Riper, 63, said she is very aware of how her heart is beating.

"I've had issues with A-Fib for about 9 years, on and off for 9 years," she said.

With atrial fibillation, the heart suddenly goes into a chaotic rhythm.

"All of a sudden, my heart will go real fast or irregular and then I get sick to my stomach," she said.

She tried medications and also cardioversions to shock the heart back into rhythm — but the results never lasted. In early January, she turned to UNC Cardiologist Dr. Anil Gehi for a catheter ablation procedure.

Catheters can reach inside the heart to record and map electrical information. An image is created to determine where to ablate - or burn - different points of the heart tissue to redirect electrical paths. The process can now be done faster, with an automated system called EnSite Precision cardiac mapping.

Something that would have taken a couple of hours to create a map of the rhythm disorder now might take 15 minutes," Gehi said.

Dr. Gehi used to map up to just 200 points to identify the source of errant heart signals.

"What you're seeing here is thousands of and thousands of points that we gather within the span of just a few minutes, figure it out and you can see it pretty visually that it's coming from over here in the appendage," Gehi said.

Burning lesions at precise points can bring the heart back into normal rhythm — now with success rates in the 80% range. Van Riper believes her procedure a month ago may have solved her heart rhythm problems for good.

"And I just went to the doctor on Friday and he said it sounds great," she said.



Allen Mask, M.D., Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Hannah Webster, Web Editor

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