There can be no denying that the highlight of the Boston Atrial Fibrillation Symposium was the lively debate between Andrea Natale, MD and Carlo Pappone, MD. It was a spirited affair between the soft and the stiff - catheters that is - of the Sterotaxis robotic system vs. Hansen Medical's system. Pappone argued that Hansen was not safe due to its stiffness. Natale countered that it is safer than conventional techniques. Pappone said "I don't believe you." Natale related Pappone's data to a little boy who though he saw a Ferrai because he saw a white horse on a red car as his father had mentioned. At least until he showed him the picture of what he had seen:
To which Pappone countered that after hearing Natale tell this story so often that he decided to have a real Ferrari made to order, custom, and had Natale's name imprinted on it.
Both seemed happy with their good-hearted performance.
But the winner of the debate between the two came from an audience member who, after sitting throught the many earlier sessions devoted to tackling afib ablation, asked the pointed question: "Can either of the robotic systems accommodate a cryo balloon or multi-electrode catheter to evaluate for CFE's (continuous fractionated electrograms)?"
The room was briefly silent. The audience knew the importance of this question, particularly since no one is fooling them selves any longer just how demanding (physically and emotionally) these procedures can be for the operator. The audience was looking for a means to make these procedures not safer, but more effective on the first attempt, and they had heard promising news on other technical fronts.
Natale and Pappone had to admit that neither robotic system could not accommodate these other catheters.
And suddenly, the both robotic systems started to look a little rusty.