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ARLINGTON Texas Health Arlington is on the cutting edge. The hospital is the first in North Texas and one of only a few in the nation using a new robot to help with heart pain.

Using a joystick, cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Bill Nesbitt does the work removing pain from the heart. With every pull and push he manipulates a catheter controlled by a robot.

The goal is to help anyone with an abnormally fast heart rhythm.

For Bill Ganss, this procedure with the Hansen robotic catheter system took away 19 years of heart pain and fatigue. He is one of the first to get the procedure in North Texas.

I think I feel more like a patient than a pioneer, said Ganss, who has atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heart rhythm, that could have led to a stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is essentially electrical chaos in the top chambers of the heart, Dr. Nesbitt said. What that does is make the bottom of the heart beat very fast and irregular.

It just felt like the heart was flip-flopping instead of taking a normal beat, Ganss explained. It tugs on you all the time.

To calm the chaos, Dr. Nesbitt literally burns the troubled cells on the heart.

His team logs every second of every procedure using a device not unlike a black box in an airplane. The tool helps track the progress of this brand new robot in North Texas.

Dr. Nesbitt lists the benefits of the robotic assist:

  • it takes less time
  • there is less radiation
  • it lets him better pinpoint where he wants the catheter to go

I think it makes me feel more comfortable, because I have more control and more predictable control, Dr. Nesbitt said.

He added that doctor fatigue used to be an issue, requiring him to stand at the patient s bedside moving the catheter around himself.

With the Hansen robot, Dr. Nesbitt is seated at all times, meaning that maintaining a steady hand is never a concern.

This may really improve the procedure in the long run, he said. We may find out our procedures are more standardized.

But this surgery doesn't come without risk. Patients have a danger of stroke, or having the doctor poke a hole in the heart.

But Ganss feels great, just two weeks after his surgery. It's been a real blessing, it really has been, he said.

And most of all, Ganss says he now has a peace of mind he hasn't known for two decades.

Insurance does cover the robotic procedure.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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