COLUMBIA — Jason Rytlewski hovers over a patient in the back of the catheterization lab at Boone Hospital Center.
With one hand, he holds the steering device for the long tubes that snake into his patient’s heart.
One of the four computer screens before him displays an X-ray image of three twisting electrode catheters. Another screen shows a gray, 3-D image of the heart, a red-and-white-striped line marking the location of a tube.
He uses the map to guide the catheter so he can correct his patient's heart rhythm.
Rytlewski is an electrophysiologist and cardiologist at Missouri Heart Center who performs procedures at Boone Hospital Center. He arrived in August straight from his electrophysiology fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He brought advanced heart mapping technology and specialized training to treat heart conditions the hospital could not handle before his arrival.
"It's just another capacity for the hospital to provide the most excellent care," said Dan Pierce, an electrophysiologist at Missouri Heart Center.
Pierce said that before Rytlewski was hired, he would refer patients requiring certain advanced procedures to Kansas City or St. Louis for treatment.
"He brings this new ablation and this new thinking and training into this area," Pierce said.
Rytlewski is trained to use the newest CARTO mapping system for heart rhythm problems. The technology creates a 3-D virtual image of the inside of a patient's heart.
When he joined the staff, the hospital invested a half million dollars to purchase a new CARTO and ultrasound system so he could treat patients close to home. MU Health Care also has an electrophysiology program, which it continues to update.
During a procedure, Rytlewski places three pads on the back and chest to create a magnetic field. The system uses the metal tip of a catheter to generate a virtual map, which appears on his computer screen. He uses the image to guide an electrode catheter to the source of the problem, where he uses a series of radio frequency burns to destroy it.
"You can imagine my clinic appointments take a little longer, because if you have chest pain and someone says you need a stress test, that makes a lot of sense to people," he said. "But when you have arrhythmia or palpitations, it’s a very vague concept, and people don’t understand very well."
Rytlewski never imagined he'd end up in mid-Missouri. He grew up in a small town in Michigan before attending the University of Michigan for his undergraduate and medical degrees, followed by seven years of training in Dallas and Nashville. He finished his training when he was 34 and moved to Columbia a few months later.
Rytlewski said he has always been driven by a desire to help people combined with a love of intellectual challenge.
"I’ve always been very much a science-type person, so it enabled me to keep both of those needs in alignment," Rytlewski said.