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Electricity pills for the heart.

Electricity pills for the heart

Medical technology is making the diagnosis and treatment of heart ailments an easier pill to swallow. Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have developed a simple method of temporarily influencing the heart's natural pacemaker activity during diagnostic procedures or brief treatment of abnormal heart rate. The device is an electrocardiographic electrode sealed within a capsule and connected to a thin, insulated stainless steel line. Once swallowed, the electrode slides out of the capsule, allowing the physician to make an electrical connection with the esophageal wall--only 1 centimeter away from the left atrium of the heart. An electrical pulse lasting 10 to 30 seconds is then delivered, and the electrode is reeled in and recovered.

The device is used to induce heart stress during diagnostic imaging procedures in which the patient must lie very still, says Janice Jenkins, an electrical engineer at the University of Michigan. It is also being used to treat patients with abnormally high heart rate, a condition called tachycardia. In these people a brief electrical stimulation of the heart often slows heart rates. Previous methods of stimulating the heart's pacemaker activity have involved either surgically placing a catheter directly into the heart or delivering a large external jolt of electricity.
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Title Annotation:electrocardiographic electrodes used in diagnostic procedures
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 18, 1986
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