Medical Device Daily Senior Staff Writer

Cardiac ablation device maker nContact Surgical (Morrisville, North Carolina) is dropping the surgical part of its name to become nContact. The name change reflects the company's evolution towards closed chest approaches to treating common heart arrhythmias, nContact said.
"nContact's progressive technology and our ability to continuously provide less invasive epicardial ablation options no longer restricts our device to surgeons," said John Funkhouser, CEO of nContact. "By removing 'Surgical' from our company name, we are categorically affirming our mission to transform the ablation market and change the dialogue from individual surgical or catheter approaches to interdisciplinary and EP-only approaches that may achieve greater scientific and clinical endpoints."

Funkhouser told Medical Device Daily the name change represents the way the company has evolved. "When we first started the company we had this really great technology . . . where the real evolution has come in is to be able to access anywhere on the heart . . . and to be able to do that under direct visibility," he said.

nContact says it has "consistently enabled the evolution of epicardial ablation procedures that have explored simpler access to the heart while creating complete lesions under direct visibility." Along this pursuit, the company says it is credited with pioneering SUBTLE (SUB-thoracic TotaL Endoscopic) access to the heart, which enables a closed chest ablation procedure (without any chest incisions or ports) through a small midline abdominal incision. The primary advantage of the procedure, which utilizes nContact's Numeris Coagulation System with VisiTrax, is its unique integration of suction, perfusion, and RF-energy to create visible, continuous lesions on a beating heart.

"We're only a 5-year-old company. The first two years were spent all around the technology and the last three years have been all around getting experience and evolving not necessarily the technology because that was in pretty good shape, but [access]," Funkhouser said.

"SUBTLE access is revolutionary in that it offers the first truly minimally invasive, standardized approach to access the posterior of the heart. Yet, as groundbreaking as this is, nContact views this advance as part of an industry progression towards a standalone cardiac ablation market that utilizes combination therapies that access both the epicardial and endocardial surfaces as a means to more effectively treat arrhythmias," Funkhouser said.
nContact's technology is being developed further to enable a new sub-xyphoid percutaneous approach to the atria and ventricles through a simple needle puncture, a technique that is familiar to EPs. In effect, the company sees significant opportunity to offer an adaptable epicardial ablation tool that is well-suited to be an essential part of the cardiac EP technology platform.

"We think it's sort of the missing link in the EP tool box . . . a critical component in order to potentially recover and improve safety is to have the total tool box and it has to include some sort of epicardial position tool . . . a closed chest approach . . . that has tremendous impact in terms of getting cardiology referrals and in terms of patient safety and patient recovery," Funkhouser told MDD.

"We have to get them there in the least traumatic and best approach," Funkhouser said.

But he gives credit to the physicians who use the technology, rather than the company itself, for the evolution.

"Almost all evolutions are in cooperation with the physicians," he said. "We're a tool maker we make tools and how they utilize the tools is really how they enable progress and evolution, so I'm not one to take the credit for the evolution and speed of the evolution."

One such physician, Kenneth Civello, MD, chief of electrophysiology at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) told MDD he believes nContact's technology has the potential to improve the success rate for the procedure for the treatment of atrial fibrillation.

"nContact is uniquely positioned, based on a significant scientific foundation, to demonstrate the importance of epicardial ablation to enhance the performance of existing catheter ablation tools. The combined approach is completely synergistic with the extensive technology platform of EPs, as endocardial ablation remains important, and mapping and navigational diagnostics may predict outcomes."

Amanda Pedersen, 309-351-7774;

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