3-D mapping, or three-dimensional mapping, which might best be compared to a GPS (global positioning system). Instead of mapping the Earth, the electrophysiologist maps the heart. In this sophisticated procedure—where the chest is not opened—the catheter is constructed like a classic GPS module. A magnetic sensor is in its tip and a computer-generated image of the heart is displayed on a monitor. The catheter inserted through a vein and positioned at various spots in the heart can perform ablations (removal) in more complex cases with high degrees of success.
The catheter, thanks to 3-D mapping, is both diagnostic and therapeutic. It does double duty, locating the point in the heart muscle responsible for an arrhythmia and ablating or burning it away. 3-D mapping offers the most accurate localization of the arrhythmia, which translates to a higher success rate for ablation and less injury to the normal heart muscle. 3-D mapping eliminates the need for an X-ray, which is only two-dimensional, and it spares the patient exposure to radiation.
The electrophysiologists at University of Minnesota Physicians Heart use 3-D mapping for the majority of their ablations.