Advances in cardiology cut lifetime radiation dose
Any exposure to radiation, no matter how small, has the potential of leading to future health issues, including many types of cancer, medical experts agree. So doing all you can to limit your lifetime radiation exposure should be a priority for you and your health care providers, alike.
“The amount of radiation anyone is exposed to for medical procedures should be controlled as much as possible,” says Dr. Mansour Razminia, cardiac electrophysiologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “In electrophysiology studies, many patients are exposed to x-ray radiation for several minutes up to two or three hours. That’s too long to be safe for our patients and health care professionals.”
To reduce the amount of fluoroscopy, or x-ray, radiation, Dr. Razminia worked with other imaging tools, such as 3D mapping and ultrasound, to develop a new standard for radiation-free electrophysiology. These complex procedures, including cardiac ablation, measure and physically correct electric impulses in the heart. To be as minimally invasive as possible, physicians use imaging software to guide their instruments through the body directly to the heart.
“Avoiding the radiation lessens the patient’s possibility of developing cancer from the exposure, as well as avoiding radiation burns,” Dr. Razminia says. “And I’ve had a few cases in which the patient was pregnant, so we had to put the procedure off until the baby was born. Without radiation, we can treat pregnant women in a timely manner, rather than waiting and possibly putting them at risk from this heart rhythm disorder.”
Monique Arnold, a 27-year-old resident of Chicago, was pregnant when she developed symptoms of what she initially thought were anxiety attacks.
“My heart was beating so hard, I could actually see it beating inside my chest,” Arnold says. “My heart rate ended up at about 216 and it felt like someone was choking me. I ended up in the emergency department every month because my heart medication wasn’t working.”
Though she waited until she had given birth to her son before undergoing the procedure that corrected the electrical rhythms in her heart, causing it to beat so hard and so fast, Arnold opted for the radiation-free procedure. Arnold chose this route because she would like to have another child and wanted to limit her lifetime dose of radiation.
“I was one of the first to undergo this procedure with no radiation,” she says. “And I was told that, if I got pregnant again, my condition might get even worse. If you can avoid that much radiation for one procedure, why wouldn’t you?”
For his part, Dr. Razminia continues to fine-tune the radiation-free procedure. He’s been busy teaching his fellow physicians from throughout the U.S., and even a few who’ve come in from overseas, how to perform the ablation procedure without x-ray. Every procedure he’s performed for the past three years has been radiation-free.
“We always want to do what is best for the patient and reducing any radiation exposure is a matter of common sense,” he says. “With today’s advanced technologies, there’s no reason we can’t continue to perfect these procedures to make them as safe for the patients and staff as possible.”
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