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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 28, 2003

UI Heart Specialists Among First To Freeze Heart Problem In Tracks

Heart specialists with Children's Hospital of Iowa at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are the first in Iowa to use a new freezing technique approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to destroy cells that cause abnormal heartbeats.

The procedure, called cryoablation, involves inserting a thin catheter into the heart that freezes a tiny area of heart muscle at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

"This technique permits us to provide more precise and effective treatment for patients faced with heart rhythm disorders," said Ian Law, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist with Children's Hospital of Iowa and assistant professor (clinical) of pediatrics in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "This approach has the advantage of allowing us to test the planned treatment site before we proceed with the ablation, which mean we can destroy fewer cells and perhaps avoid unnecessary damage to the heart."

Previously, heart specialists used a technique called radioablation, which uses radio waves to destroy the cells that cause an arrhythmia. While that approach is often successful, physicians were unable to evaluate the effects of the treatment before they delivered the ablation. Some patients needed to receive pacemakers following radioablation.

Cryoablation offers an effective alternative. During the new procedure, physicians insert a catheter into the patient's leg and guide it into the heart. When the tip of the catheter reaches the treatment site, specialists drop its temperature to minus 25 degrees Celsius. If the catheter is not positioned correctly, the cells in that location can recover. If the catheter is on target, its temperature is dropped to minus 70 Celsius to actually destroy the tissue.

"This technique has the advantage of destroying only the tissue that is causing the abnormal rhythm without damaging normal tissue," Law said. "We correct the problem and generally avoid the need for a pacemaker."

Cryoablation is also used to treat adults with heart rhythm disturbances. UI Heart Care specialists say arrhythmias are common among adults, and affect approximately one out every 200 children.

Children's Hospital of Iowa at UI Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City is the state's longest-serving children's hospital. More than 100,000 children receive care at Children's Hospital of Iowa and its statewide network of outreach clinics each year.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,