Philips and Medtronic have joined forces to develop an integrated, image-guided system for treating common heart rhythm disorder paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF).
The system will use Philips' dielectric imaging and navigation system to facilitate cryoablation without extensive X-ray imaging.
Philips already has U.S. and European clearances for the dielectric imaging and navigation technology, setting it up to bring the integrated cryoablation system to market in the fourth quarter.
The number of people with atrial fibrillation is expected to grow in the coming years as populations age, driving the global figure above the current estimate of 33 million. That trend has attracted the attention of many leading medtech companies, including Medtronic and Philips.
Medtronic sells cardiac cryoablation catheters under the Arctic Front brand, using cold energy to interrupt the irregular electrical pathways that cause PAF. Fluoroscopy, a type of continuous X-ray imaging, is used to guide the surgeons during the minimally-invasive procedure.
The use of fluoroscopy has raised concerns about radiation exposure and the cancer risks it entails, both for patients and the catheter laboratory staff involved in the procedure.
Philips contends its KODEX-EPD dielectric imaging and navigation system can reduce the need for X-ray imaging. Dielectric imaging can generate 3D images of the heart, enabling physicians to track and navigate catheters without the use of fluoroscopy. Philips paid €250 million ($281 million) upfront last year to acquire the technology and its developer, EPD Solutions.
Combining the imaging with the cryoablation system will create a single product to visualize the pulmonary veins, confirm the positioning of the mapping catheter and deliver cold energy to create scar tissue and interrupt the irregular electrical pathways.
"This integrated solution can guide physicians during the treatment of AF patients with ablation, as they can view detailed, CT-like 3D anatomy, reducing the need for X-ray imaging," Marlou Janssen, business leader at Philips EPD Solutions, said in a statement.
Medtronic will "facilitate sales of products on behalf of Philips," according to the partners. Philips will take the lead on developing a version of its cardiac imaging and navigation system that has features specific to cryoablation procedures.
Other groups are working on to reduce fluoroscopy times and challenge Medtronic and Philips for the growing PAF market. This week, researchers funded by a Johnson & Johnson presented early-phase PAF data on a very high power–short duration ablation technology, noting that "fluoroscopy times were substantially lower than historical standard ablation with point-by-point catheters."