Novant uses new 3D technology to find the source of irregular heartbeats

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — February is American Heart Month, and Novant Health is using new and innovative ways to keep your heart healthy.

Novant is using new 3D technology to help track signs of irregular heartbeats. Irregular heartbeats can be deadly, so learning about what’s happening in the heart as soon as possible is vital.

Channel 9′s Damany Lewis got a chance to see the new technology firsthand. It works by simply putting on a vest. Doctors are able to learn where in your heart the problem may be, and more importantly, create a game plan to fix it.

For 62-year-old Deborah Collar, the signs of an irregular heartbeat were very obvious.

“I kept noticing my heart would beat way too many times,” Collar told Lewis.

She said her heart problems went on for several years and then got worse.

“It got to a point where I got real bad headaches and I started getting dizzy, blurred vision, and I knew I stayed tired all the time,” she said.

Left untreated, irregular heartbeats can be deadly. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, between 2011 and 2018, more than 276,000 people ages 35 to 84 died from irregular heartbeats. That number has only continued to increase.

Doctors at Novant Health have a new way to locate the exact source of irregular heartbeats, which for years has been challenging.

Think of it like a car motor -- sometimes, you drive and you hear strange noises, but the moment you take it to your mechanic, the noises stop. The same goes with your heart. The second doctors see patients with irregular heartbeats, many times it takes hours for doctors to locate where the heart problem lies.

But not anymore, thanks to a vest that provides a 3D mapping system of the heart. It uses more than 250 electrodes across the chest to record heartbeats. Doctors said it’s dramatically cutting the time it takes to determine where inside the heart the problem lies.

Novant cardiologist Dr. Lai Chow Kok has been using the new technology for a month. Before this, he would have to spend time looking at every angle of the heart on an EKG, trying to identify the problem. Now he has a clearer blueprint, saving time and eventually, patients’ lives.

“I think it’s remarkable,” Dr. Kok said. “The heart is made of four chambers so I know which chamber of the heart this problematic rhythm is coming from. Not only that, it helps identify within that chamber which portion of the chamber I should pay attention to.”

For Deborah Collar, the vest was able to pinpoint her issues on the back of her heart. After more follow up testing, she’ll undergo an ablation, which will destroy the muscles causing the irregular heartbeats. Doctors said in many cases, patients can go home the same day after the procedure.

“Knowing that they can get you into where they need you to be and into the procedure, know exactly where to go, and get it done,” Collar said. “You are not under anesthesia no longer than you need to be.”

“I believe that any time when we as physicians perform a procedure of a short duration of time -- without losing the effectiveness -- we serve the patient better,” Dr. Kok said.

Novant Health is looking at bringing this new technology to Charlotte. Right now, the closest location you can find it is in Winston-Salem.

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Damany Lewis

Damany Lewis, wsoctv.com

Damany Lewis is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.