Mens hormones go into a spin in the months before their first child arrives.

Cape Town - A cardiologist has shown that it is possible to correct heart rhythm abnormalities in pregnant women without using medication or X-rays, after he performed a successful cardiac ablation on a woman who is five months pregnant.

Dr Faizel Lorgat of Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, who specialises in the treatment of heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias), was the first doctor in Cape Town and probably in South Africa to perform a ventricular tachycardia ablation without using X-rays.

Using a revolutionary 3D-mapping system called Navix, he was able to cure Bloubergstrand patient Angela Carpenter’s irregular heartbeat. The condition is characterised by a rapid heart rhythm from the lower pumping chambers of the heart.

While the normal heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute, with the atria contracting first, and then the ventricles, patients with Carpenter’s condition can have a heartbeat of anything from 120 up to 300 beats a minute, causing dizziness and light-headedness and even sudden death.

The abnormal rhythm destabilises the blood pressure and impairs the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to the brain.

The condition can be corrected by sending a catheter into the heart, guided by X-rays, but because of Carpenter’s pregnancy an X-ray was not advisable. Carpenter couldn’t use anti-arrhythmic medication for the same reason.

So instead of using X-rays, Lorgat traced the catheter using a 3D-mapping system which produces real-time images of the heart.

“Specialised ECG patches, which we put on the back and front of the chest, pick up a signal from the catheter and it sends these signals to the mapping software, which in turn changes the signals into real-time 3D images. This gives us a complete picture of what is happening inside the heart. We are then able to accurately and safely deliver the required energy to the abnormal cells,” said Lorgat.

While the 3D mapping system is not brand new to SA, it is traditionally used with X-rays, which are cheaper than 3D images.

Lorgat said the latest technique was good news for pregnant women who had had limited access to treatment.

“These women had to put up with terrible side effects of anti-arrhythmia medication, which is toxic and very unfriendly to the foetus. Now they don’t have to make those difficult decisions or face the risk of losing their babies.”

Carpenter, who was discharged from hospital on Friday, said she felt “normal again” following heart palpitations and dizzy spells that were so bad they were almost blackouts.

“My heart would beat so fast that I’d feel I was going to faint. One minute it would be fine, but the next it would be something else. Initially I thought it was just pregnancy side effects. I’m just happy that I had it fixed in time without having to take any meds.” - Cape Argus