For patients with cardiac arrhythmias, focused ultrasound energy via thermal ablation may have the potential to block the abnormal electrical impulses, thus restoring normal cardiac rhythms and providing alternative management for chronic atrial fibrillation and similar conditions. A foundation-funded research study on this topic has recently been completed at LabTAU – a Focused Ultrasound Center of Excellence and a part of INSERM (the French equivalent of the National Institutes of Health). Cyril Lafon, PhD, (the 2016-2017 Merkin Fellow) and his team designed and tested transesophageal probes to apply minimally invasive thermal ablation to cardiac tissue.
The goals of the project, entitled “Trans-Esophageal Cardiac Ablation Using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound: A New Minimally Invasive Therapy for Treating Arrhythmias” were to demonstrate feasibility and develop a reliable treatment monitoring technique for applying high-intensity focused ultrasound to the heart in a large animal model. For monitoring the procedure, the team used passive elastography to assess stiffness changes due to tissue coagulation and compared it with conventional radiation force elastography (SSI) and MRI. In vivo experiments demonstrated the safety of the procedure and its clinical feasibility; however, the team did identify a need to improve the delivery of FUS energy.
Results obtained from this study helped LabTAU obtain a significant follow-on grant from the French National Agency for Research. The next steps will continue to improve the technology for future clinical trials. Read More >