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Better treatments for arrhythmia

Arrhythmia, heart rhythm problems, is often treated by implanting a pacemaker.Arrhythmia Most patients with a pacemaker see an improvement in their condition, but a third of patients do not. This may be because the pacemaker is on scar tissue on their heart, which does not respond to the electrical signal, or because the pacemaker is not in the best position.

In general, the pacemaker is inserted into any vein in the left ventricle of the heart. Staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, with the Imaging Sciences team at King’s College London, have developed a new technique to test different positions within the left ventricle to see if this improves the effect of the pacemaker.

They use MRI imaging to develop a ‘bullseye’ diagram of the left ventricle that shows which part is most out of sync. The MRI also shows scar tissue. They use this diagram over the top of an X-ray to guide the placement of the pacemaker, making sure that it is in the area worst affected and not on scar tissue.

The results from pilot studies are encouraging and a new, international trial is starting. This research may change the way arrhythmia patients receiving a pacemaker are treated – and will most aid patients who do not benefit from the current procedure.