Intermountain Medical Center’s Heart Institute performed a three-dimensional heart-mapping procedure to treat arrhythmia, which affects one in four adults, just one week after the technology was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for commercial use.

Arrhythmias are caused by rogue electrical currents traveling through the heart, and this new technology represents “a generational shift” in the use of data, says John Day, M.D., medical director of the Intermountain Heart Rhythm Specialists at the Institute and the physician who performed the procedure.

The new 3-D technology enables physicians to map not only the anatomy of the heart but also the electrical flow in seconds, creating better images and more precisely pinpointing where the problem is occurring.

During a catheter ablation procedure, physicians insert catheters into the heart through the femoral veins. Sensors on the ends record electrical information and create a 3-D anatomical model, which is then studied to identity the location and paths of the electronical currents causing the arrhythmia. Physicians then use an additional catheter to create tiny lesions to stop the currents from traveling and causing the abnormal rhythms.

Before 3-D technology, physicians had to rely on 2-D X-rays to find the electrical currents, which Day likened to looking for a “needle in a haystack.”

Using the mapping tech, produced by St. Jude Medical and called the EnSite Precision system, “we can collect thousands of data points,” Day says. “It’s faster and more reliable than what we already had.”

It is expected that the improved technology will reduce the need for patients to undergo additional procedures for arrhythmia, enable patients to focus on cardiac rehabilitation, and return to their day to day activities more quickly. “We have a better chance of curing the patient and minimizing complications,” Day says. Reducing the number of procedures needed to treat the condition also reduces the cost of care.