The GPS technology of the heart

Doctors are using cutting-edge GPS technology to treat a common heart condition.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital are using cutting-edge GPS technology to treat atrial fibrillation (A-fib or AF). A-fib is a relatively common, but serious, heart condition.

The patient with AF might experience some pretty scary fast and irregular heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and weakness. This is caused when the top chambers of the heart (the atria) start quivvering chaotically due to some confusion within the heart's own electrical signaling process. When this happens, the heart can't pump the blood through the body properly.

The reason it is serious is because blood can pool, which may cause clots to form, which may result in stroke or heart failure. This is why getting treatment for the condition is important.

Sometimes the recommended treatment involves a surgical procedure to target the area causing the problem and stop the erratic impulses from occurring. It's necessary to expose the patient to radiation during this process.

I have been lucky enough to be one of the nurses in the operating room during one of these procedures. They're fascinating. We were all listening to music that the patient chose. She was comfortable and conscious, conversing with the doctors and me the whole time. All of us on the medical team were wearing heavy radiation shields.

But now, for the first time, actual GPS technology -- that's right, similar technology to what you use to track your friends or aid you when you travel -- is being used to reduce some of the radiation exposure in the process. How cool is that?

Speaking of travel, I can't resist making a snarky joke about how the TSA is probably going to make up for all that saved radiation exposure by subjecting us to it during routine trips to the airport. But don't mind me. Just watch this cool video from CBS News to learn more.

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