ORLANDO, Fla. - About three million Americans suffer from irregular heartbeats, also known as cardiac arrhythmia. For many who have them, life is brutal. Some people can be treated with medicine, but others need surgical intervention.
Now, doctors are using computerized magnetic navigation to calm racing hearts.
It's been nine years since Angelo Woodard has felt healthy enough to truly enjoy his life.
"I haven't smiled in years, and that ain't no kidding," said Woodward, a ventricular tachycardia patient.
Woodward had ventricular tachycardia, which caused severe heart palpitations.
While banging on his glass patio table, Angelo said, "This is what I felt 24 hours a day for nine years. Just like that, and I felt that through my whole body."
For eight years, Woodward said he took prescription medications that didn't work.
"Kept me tired all the time, slept all day," Woodward said.
He recently underwent a new high-tech procedure using the Stereotaxis Magnetic Navigation System, which allows surgeons to more easily seek and heat-destroy the abnormal tissue causing the palpitations.
Traditionally, a doctor would push — by hand — a stiff catheter through the heart. The new catheter is soft like a noodle.
Doctors use a joystick and huge magnets to move that noodle like catheter through the heart and the computer software creates a 3D map that highlights the trouble spots.
"So now you have a roadmap. Now you can go to the area of interest, apply heat and take care of the problem," said Dr. Usman Siddiqui, a electrophysiologist from Florida Hospital.
Siddiqui said the new technology enhances precision, which leads to fewer complications, shorter procedures which reduces radiation exposure, improved outcomes and faster recoveries.
One week after surgery, Woodward's pounding was gone.
"I can do anything. I go to the gym every day, spend time with my daughter, so it's great," Woodward said.
All surgical procedures come with risks, so if you suffer from cardiac arrhythmia, talk to your doctor about the safest and most effective treatment for you.
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