- Nicole Villalpando American-Statesman Staff
On Valentine’s Day, 9-year-old Sophia Dahlberg walked into Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas to get the arrhythmia in her heart fixed. A new technology, the Abbott EnSite Precision cardiac mapping system, allowed doctors to map the electrical workings of her heart in ways they had not been able to do before.
The technology was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December. Dell Children’s became the third pediatric center to install it and the first in Texas. Procedures began at the end of January, and patients all over Texas have been treated. Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center began using it on adults in December.
Dell Children’s is the third pediatric center in the country to use what Dr. Daniel Shmorhun calls a “precious software upgrade.” The pediatric electrophysiologist at Children’s Cardiology Associates did Sophia’s procedure. The technology was developed by St. Jude Medical, which has offices in Austin and became part of Abbott Laboratories last year.
While a patient is under anesthesia, doctors run a catheter up a vein in the leg to the heart. EnSite Precision uses both magnetic technology to locate points within the heart and impedance technology to allow doctors to see more precise points that can be seen even if a patient moves.
Doctors can then create a map in real time of how electricity is moving through the heart, identify the problem and then fix the problem by doing an ablation of the area to permanently prevent an arrhythmia.
“This type of upgrade improves our ability to get to where we need to get to,” Shmorhun said. Doctors are also able to take less time finding the source of the arrhythmia, which means less time under anesthesia and less radiation exposure for the patient.
Doctors often are able to send the patient home the same day.
Sophia was born with her arrhythmia, but it was first noticed when she was 5. Sometimes her heart would beat at twice the normal speed. Her chest would feel heavy, and she could feel her heart racing. She’d have to sit out of activities.
Usually her heart would correct itself, but in August and again in October she had to go to the emergency room at Dell for doctors to stop her heart and reset it.
After the last time, her parents were given a choice of putting Sophia on medication for the rest of her life or doing this procedure, said her father, Chris Dahlberg.
Her doctors, Dahlberg said, “certainly put us at ease, but anytime your daughter is having a heart surgery, it’s scary.”
Within a week, Sophia was able to return to normal activity, and she went skiing in March. She’s since had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours just to make sure everything is working, and it is.
“I’m feeling great,” Sophia said.
“Before, I knew it could happen and I was kind of worried it would happen,” she said of the arrhythmia. “Now I’m glad I got this out of the way. “