UPMC Ultrasound Technique Could Lead to Better Pacemaker Placement

May 21, 2012

A special type of cardiac ultrasound developed at UPMC allows doctors to pinpoint the placement of pacemaker wires on the heart, according to a recent study from the hospital system.

Principal investigator Dr. Samir Saba said the speckle tracking echo technique improves upon doctors' methods of placing the left ventricular wires for biventricular pacemakers.

Well, it would improve the current technique if there were any standard method of placing those wires.

"Wherever it goes, without any guidance, we would put it there, and we hope that the patient will benefit from it," said Dr. Saba, the Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at UPMC. "About one-third of patients do not get any benefit from it, and we never knew what the determinants of someone benefiting [are]."

Speckle tracking echo ultrasounds measure the exact timing of various contractions within each chamber of the heart. Using that information, Dr. Saba and his colleagues figured that the best place to put left ventricular pacemaker wires would be at the site of the last contraction.

The results of the ensuing study were encouraging.

"[The new technique] improves the outcomes of patients in terms of how often they get admitted to the hospital for heart failure, as well as how often they die," said Dr. Saba. He said the new technique reduces deaths following pacemaker surgery by as much as 40%.

He said the speckle tracking echo technique will have to be approved by several governing bodies of cardiology, like the American Heart Association, before it's adopted into the general medical lexicon. However, Dr. Saba noted that UPMC has already started to use the new method.