A team of researchers at the Ohio State University Exner Medical Center have designed a new medical device that is designed to provide patients with enhanced safety during routine cardiac ablation procedures. Specifically, the device is designed to protect the esophagus. This new protective tool was presented at the recent 2023 meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society.
Cardiac ablation refers to the use of heat or cold to kill certain cells. The most common use of this procedure is to treat atrial fibrillation, or an abnormal heart beat. Over the next ten years, it’s expected that nearly 12 million people in the U.S. could have atrial fibrillation.
By administering hot or cold energy, clinicians use ablation procedures to destroy cells that may be causing abnormal heart rhythms, thus restoring a normal heart beat. The problem with many of these procedures, however, has to do with how close the heart is to the esophagus. Stray energy from the ablation procedure could accidentally hit the esophagus, causing injury to esophagus. IN severe cases, these can lead to a fata atrioesophageal fistula, or a hole between the esophagus and the heart.
To address this issue, OSU researchers have developed a device called ESOlution. The device is designed to actually move the esophagus away from the heart so that it does not become affected by ablation energy. Using a long stick with a suction feature at the end, clinicians can guide the device down a patient’s throat and manually move the esophagus, temporarily, to a safe location.
To date, researchers have enrolled about 120 participants in a clinical trial studying how the device works and its success rate at preventing esophageal injury. IN the trial so far, nearly a third of patients who underwent ablation without the use of ESOlution experienced some kind of injury or damage. Comparatively, only about 5% of ablation patients who also used ESOlution experienced any kind of esophageal damage.
Researchers highlight that their tool is not expensive to produce, it works, and it uses materials that are already commonly available, making it a no-brainer.