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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 9, 2004

UI Heart Care One Of First In The Nation To Offer Magnetic Surgery

UI Heart Care physicians yesterday became among the first cardiac specialists in the United States and around the world to use a revolutionary magnetic guidance system to treat patients with coronary artery disease and heart rhythm problems.

Installed in one of UI Heart Care's heart catheterization laboratories, the system is the first one offered to Iowans, the seventh system available nationwide and the 11th system in use in the world. Produced by Stereotaxis, Inc., the magnetic surgery system was co-invented by Matthew Howard, M.D., (left) professor and head of the Department of Neurosurgery at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Click here for high resolution photo.

The system features two 1,000-pound superconducting magnetic assemblies and advanced computer imaging technology. Using a joystick, physicians navigate a magnetically tipped catheter (a small tube) through the arteries with great precision, accessing hard-to-reach blood vessels and treating rhythm problems in the chambers of the heart. Brian Olshansky, M.D., director of electrophysiology at UI Heart Care, used the system to treat a patient affected by heart rhythm abnormalities.

"As cardiology procedures become more complex and powerful, the ability to position catheters within certain parts of the heart poses a major challenge," said interventional cardiologist James Rossen, M.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine. "The magnetic guidance system provides the potential for quicker, easier and more accurate placement of catheters and other devices within the heart. This ability may allow cardiologists to perform procedures that were not previously possible."

Howard conceived of the idea as a medical student. Working collaboratively with physicists and neurosurgeons, the current clinical system developed over a period of many years. The idea was to eliminate the need for mechanical controls of medical devices and instead use magnetic forces to guide implants. This concept, combined with advanced medical imaging techniques, high-speed computers and magnetic manipulation techniques, allows physicians to perform procedures with a computer joystick.

"When I thought about this system originally, it was with neurosurgery applications in mind," Howard said. "As we developed the system into a practical clinical device, it became clear that the system had the potential to facilitate a wide range of procedures that involve placing implants and catheters in the body. The pace with which cardiologists have adapted this new technology to their specific specialty needs is remarkable. They are the clear leaders in this field currently, but other promising clinical applications are not far behind."

One particularly exciting future research effort involves magnetic navigation in the lung, which is being led by Geoffrey McLennan, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and a UI Health Care pulmonologist.

Howard and UI Heart Care specialists worked closely with Michael Vannier, M.D., UI professor of radiology, to bring the system to UI Hospitals and Clinics.

UI Hospitals and Clinics is the state's only academic medical center. 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 Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

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