New York May 9,2011 Abnormalities in cardiac conduction, the rate at which the heart conducts electrical impulses to contract and relax, are a major cause of death and disability around the world. Researchers at Columbia Engineering School have been developing a new method, Electromechanical Wave Imaging (EWI), that is the first non-invasive technique to map the electrical activation of the heart. Based on ultrasound imaging, EWI will enable doctors to treat arrhythmias more efficiently and more precisely. The study was published online in the May 9th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Up until now, other research groups have mostly focused on measuring the electrical activation directly but invasively, through electrode contact, or non-invasively but indirectly, through complex mathematical modeling based on remote measurements. "This is an important breakthrough," said Elisa Konofagou, who led the research and is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. "The approach we have chosen to look at the minute deformations following the electrical activation of the heart is both direct and noninvasive. Electromechanical Wave Imaging is also eminently translational as it can be incorporated into most ultrasound scanners already available in hospitals and clinics, and can be modified at little or no cost to use our technology."
Using their EWI method, the Columbia Engineering team imaged the heart with ultrasound five times faster than standard echocardiography and mapped the local deformations of the heart with their images. The researchers then looked at small regions of the heart (just a few millimeters squared) and measured how much these regions were stretched or compressed every 2/1000s of a second. This enabled them to precisely identify at what time each region of the heart began to contract, a.k.a the electromechanical activa
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