In November, 2000, a team of experienced medical device specialists came together in Cincinnati with a mission to find simpler, less-invasive ways to treat a potentially deadly heart ailment called atrial fibrillation. People with AF (there are more than 2 million of them in the U.S. alone) suffer from hearts that quiver, rather than beat rhythmically. Blood isn't pumped completely out of their hearts, so it may pool and clot, possibly leading to strokes. One way to treat the problem is through a surgery that creates a maze of small incisions along the heart's right and left upper chambers, or atria. When the incisions heal, scar tissue is created, blocking the irregular electrical impulses that cause AF. The surgery works, but it's time-consuming and diffcult, and that can limit its use. That's where the AtriCure experts come in.
They've developed less invasive and less technically challenging technologies for the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation. AtriCure's surgical instruments are undergoing clinical testing and the company is seeking FDA approval to use its devices to surgically treat AF. In February, the first AF patient was successfully treated in an AtriCure clinical trial. AtriCure expects to enroll 70 patients at 10 medical centers as it continues the advanced testing.
Atricure's surgical products have been cleared by the FDA for use on soft tissue in general surgery and the company reported record revenue in 2007 of $48.3 million, an increase of 26 percent over 2006. Its financial performance in the fourth quarter of 2007 was the best since it became a public company -- traded on the Nasdaq exchange -- in 2005. AtriCure earned the Emerging Technology Award from the Ohio Department of development in 2002.
As hospitals and physicians keep looking for ways to treat patients using less-invasive methods, Atricure expects demand for its products to grow. "There are several key market indicators which we believe suggest that our minimally invasive business sector is positioned to gain rapid and increasing physician adoption," says CEO David J. Drachman.
Writer: David Holthaus
Photographs courtesy of Atricare