AUSTIN -- If you've ever had an X-Ray, you've watched the tech personnel don a lead vest for protection from potentially harmful radiation. But that usually only takes a few seconds. Now imagine radiation treatments that require several hours. An Austin Healthcare System is gaining national attention because it has created a way to eliminate the radiation risk for lengthier procedures.
Almost two years ago, Billy Freeman Jr. got wonderful and potentially life-threatening news all in the same day.
"The day I went into A-Fib is the day we found out we were having a girl," said Freeman.
His Atrial Fibrillation or A-Fib required multiple procedures at the same time.
"The first thing that went through my mind was my wife and my daughter," said Freeman. "Because of the long term effects of that. It's your heart. It's not like rolling your ankle or something break in your ankle and you get some screws in it and you're fine. If your heart fails, that's it."
Getting the A-Fib fixed presented another risk – radiation exposure.
"Some procedures though can take 2-3 hours, and if you rely completely on radiation for those, the amount of radiation exposure can be fairly substantial," said Rodney Horton, M.D., a cardiac electro-physiologist at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center. "Particularly if someone needs multiple procedures."
The risk is even more significant for patients like Freeman who are under 40 years of age.
"Too much radiation is bad for you anyway, right," he said. "I do have a family history of relatives getting cancer."
Fortunately Horton and his team developed a new system whicheliminates radiation and relies solely on A-Fib trigger mapping.
"What I've noticed though is that most physicians look at those mapping systems occasionally and then they stare at the X-Ray, thinking the X-Ray is giving them more information than it actually does," said Horton. "What we did was change the focus and focus entirely on the mapping system."
Freeman and other A-Fib patients can now get their ailing hearts fixed with less risk.
"Not having the radiation is an added bonus," said Freeman. "Just knowing I have a greater chance of walking my daughter down the aisle because of all of this. It really means a lot."
Horton performed the radiation free procedure live for an A-Fib symposium in Florida. A nurse who was part of his team was eight months pregnant. Horton said that wouldn't have been allowed if radiation was used. His input also helped developers create an FDA approved device that allows other doctors to perform the radiation free procedures.
Click here for a link to the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center.