OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — An Overland Park hospital claims to have something no other hospital does: two robots that can perform cardiac ablations.
Since September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, it created an opportunity to see what the equipment entails. For those unaware, the Mayo Clinic defines atrial fibrillation as an “irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm. An irregular heart rhythm is called an arrhythmia. AFib can lead to blood clots in the heart. The condition also increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.”
The hospital setting is familiar to Bill Kellogg, who works at Overland Park Regional Medical Center as an electrophysiology nurse clinician.
He said one of his biggest daily tasks is helping patients during ablation procedures. But this summer an irregular heartbeat saw him go from employee to patient.
“I had a couple of episodes where my heart rate just took off out of nowhere,” Kellogg said.
He first noticed symptoms in 2019, but it wasn’t until last winter that scans revealed he was in a critical arrhythmia called Ventricular Tachycardia. His procedure happened six months later.
Kellogg explained that a typical ablation procedure sees a doctor standing next to the operating table using their hands to maneuver the catheter. But in his case a robot did that work.
Overland Park Regional Medical Center said it’s the only hospital in the country with two robotic cardiac ablation systems. The second system was delivered just last month.
The technique is advanced in that it uses robotically controlled magnetic fields to move a magnetic catheter.
“These two devices come in right next to the patient, and basically what they are is a north and south magnet. Inside they have devices that move those magnets around,” added Kellogg.
So, instead of standing next to him, Kellogg’s doctor manipulated the robot from the next room using a computer mouse. From there the doctor directed the robotic magnets to precisely navigate his catheter.
“While they’re sitting down, they can direct that catheter in any direction they want to go in,” he said.
The procedure is said to be more precise, stable, and safer with a shortened recovery time.
“I got to go home the same day,” Kellogg said while explaining most people require an overnight stay. “I had my procedure done Monday and by the time Thursday rolled around I was back on my road bike on the trainer riding for about 30 to 45 minutes.”
It also lowers the risk of A-Fib returning. Three months later, Kellogg said he’s had no recurring issues and is now using his experience to help other patients who may be nervous.
“I can walk in the room, introduce myself, and tell them I’ve done this for 33 years and I’ve had an actual A Fib ablation,” he said.
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Atrial fibrillation symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, and palpitations. When you first notice symptoms, you should contact your primary care doctor. If those symptoms worsen, go to the emergency room.