Medical Moment: Arrhythmia radiation treatment

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:33 PM EST
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One in 18 people -- or 5% of the US population -- has arrhythmia, a condition where the heart fails to beat at the correct time. Doctors are testing a new treatment, traditionally used for cancer patients, for patients with a severe type of arrhythmia that starts in the bottom chambers of the heart.

It’s a condition that if untreated could lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Ventricular tachycardia, or VT, is commonly treated with medication or a procedure called ‘catheter ablation’ to stop the electrical signals causing the abnormal heartbeat, but neither treatment is perfect.

Doctors are testing stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, on VT patients after other methods fail. Doctors determine the precise area producing the abnormal signals, then deliver the radiation.

Doctors say treating the area just once will minimize radiation risk. It’s an experimental therapy that may put the heart back into rhythm in one, outpatient visit.

The FDA has granted breakthrough device designation to the system for the treatment of VT. SBRT is traditionally used to target tumors in parts of the body other than the spine, head, and neck.

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