Exploring the next frontier in cardiovascular disease

Dr. Alexandru Costea (left), Dr. Carlo Pappone (center), and UC physicians consult in the Center for Electrophysiology, Rhythm Disorders and Electro-Mechanical Interventions at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.


By Amanda Nageleisen

There isn’t a hospital in the world that doesn’t use technology designed by Dr. Carlo Pappone, including the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The internationally-renowned electrophysiologist holds numerous patents, including for mapping systems that use electromagnetic technology to create real-time 3D images of a heart. Dr. Pappone is director of the Arrhythmology and Cardiac Electrophysiology Department at San Donato Hospital in Milan, Italy.

During a visit to UC Medical Center last week, Dr. Pappone discussed the next frontier in electrophysiology, or the study of electrical activity in the heart.

“The heart is the only organ in the body that contains electrical activity – it’s the only organ that is always moving,” he said. “Electrophysiology is the future of the study of cardiovascular disease.”

UC Health’s Center for Electrophysiology, Rhythm Disorders and Electro-Mechanical Interventions employs advanced technology and techniques, including those developed by Pappone, to improve outcomes for patients through fast diagnosis and thorough intervention.

Pappone specializes in the ablation of atrial fibrillation, or arrhythmia, which is becoming increasingly common as the world’s population ages. About 2.7 million Americans are affected by arrhythmia.

Emerging research suggests those same techniques can also be applied to the study and treatment of other cardiovascular disorders, particularly genetic conditions such as Brugada syndrome, he told UC physicians and students.

The ablation techniques map electrical impulses within the heart, allowing doctors to localize the source of the abnormal electrical activity in order to more easily restore “normal communication” among cells – “because the wrong communication means cardiac arrest,” Pappone said.

“This is just the first step for the future,” he said.

Alexandru Costea, MD, director of the electrophysiology center at the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, called the research “cutting edge” and said the center is exploring ways to become involved.

“He’s an icon in the field of electrophysiology across the world,” Dr. Costea said. “We hope to work with him in some of these areas of research, which could include anything from animal research to joint procedures.”

But Dr. Pappone also came with a word of caution for the young physicians who have never worked without the advanced techniques he helped pioneer:

“Invest much more in understanding the mechanisms behind the technology,” he said. “Young doctors already use the technology, but so many don’t understand what is behind it.”

UC Health is committed to using the power of academic medicine to reach more people with innovative new treatments and highly specialized care. For more information, please visit uchealth.com/heart.

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