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Oct. 8, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Kan. Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital last week became the first in the U.S. to utilize GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to assist in a medical procedure.
The technology was used Wednesday by surgeons to monitor the location of a catheter while it moved through the heart of a patient, KU officials said in prepared statement today. Instead of using a satellite or cellular signal like a consumer GPS device, the medical GPS tool used electromagnetic waves comparable to radio waves, said Dr. D.J. Lakkireddy, who performed the procedure.
KU officials said the chief benefit of the GPS tool is that it reduces the use of X-rays in certain procedures. Real-time fluoroscopy is the standard technology, generating a rapid series of X-ray images taken throughout the course of an operation, which can last up to four hours and exposes the patient and medical staff to radiation.
"With this technology, radiation exposure can be reduced. In our first procedure, exposure went from what would have been about 45 minutes to less than two minutes,” Lakkireddy said. "It enables the operator to see the catheters in a virtual way, and thereby not use the X-ray machine, minimizing the amount of radiation exposure."
More attention has been given in recent years to the risks posed by over-use of X-rays and other diagnostic radiation. Diagnostic imaging has nearly doubled in the last 20 years, according to a Joint Commission alert, which said "health care organizations must seek new ways to reduce exposure to repeated doses of harmful radiation from these diagnostic procedures."
KU Hospital staff have used the GPS tool six times already in guiding heart catheterizations performed to correct abnormal heart rhythm, officials said. Lakkireddy said the plan is to use it in about half of the approximately 1,600 heart catheterizations at the hospital next year.
"We'll get started with simpler, smaller cases. Obviously the goal is to extend this technology to pretty much everything that we do and essentially make our labs more radiation-safe," he said.
The GPS technology, called MediGuide, was purchased from St. Jude Medical device company. KU officials said philanthropy was "essential" in acquiring the technology.
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