17 May GE, St. Jude to collaborate on visualization technology
Waukesha, Wis. – Two healthcare giants, GE Healthcare and St. Jude Medical, will enter into a collaboration agreement to develop a state-of-the-art cardiovascular ultrasound imaging system for patients with heart rhythm disease.
Under terms of the agreement, the health organizations will develop a system with fully integrated intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) imaging capabilities for cardiac catheterization labs worldwide, enabling minimally invasive therapies.
GE’s ultrasound technology will be integrated with St. Jude Medical’s catheter technology to provide physicians with real-time ultrasound imaging inside the heart, including direct visualization of both blood flow and other catheters used during cardiac procedures.
The integrated system is primarily designed for patients with heart rhythm disease, a dysfunction in the electrical workings of the heart that affects more than 8 million people around the world. Irregular electrical pulses disturb the heart’s ability to beat normally and pump blood efficiently, and pose significant risks such as heart muscle damage and stroke.
The most common heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation (AF), is an irregular and rapid rhythm where the heart’s atria quiver instead of pumping efficiently. Each year, more than 380,000 new cases of AF are diagnosed worldwide. For many AF patients, existing therapies, including medications, are ineffective or cause significant side effects such as severe reduction in stamina.
Dr. Peter Chen, president of St. Jude Medical’s organization, said atrial fibrillation is one of the largest unmet clinical needs in
cardiovascular medicine. One fairly effective treatment is ablation, which has a success rate of 84 percent to 87 percent, but has been undermined by a lack of visualization tools.
In ablation, an electrophysiologist eliminates the tissues in the heart that contribute to the disturbance of electrical flow. However, because of its complexity and procedure time, ablation is performed less often than it should be, and better visualization technology is expected to make ablation more accessible.
Dr. Laurence M. Epstein, chief of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said the new visualization tools are like having eyes inside the patient’s heart, without actually having to open the chest. “The development of ICE technology has changed how we approach ablation procedures,” he explained. “We can visualize, in real time, the actual anatomic structures that we are targeting.”