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No one walking down the street past Dorothy Bradford would ever know she was 88 years old.

She still exercises, does yard work and lives on her own.

But two years ago, Bradford realized something wasn't right. The activities she previously did with such ease had become difficult. She had no energy and the thought of leaving the house had stopped exciting her.

Bradford had atrial fibrillation, a condition marked by irregular, rapid heart rate, and an atrial flutter, where the heart's upper chambers beat too fast. Instead of the normal 50 to 90 heart beats per minute, Bradford's heart was holding steady at 131 beats per minute.

Medication didn't work for her, so doctors decided it was time for a trip to the cath lab to block the electrical currents in the heart that were causing her abnormal rhythm.

So on Monday at Intermountain Medical Center, Bradford became the first person in the nation to be treated for abnormal heart rhythms using a new heart-mapping technology.

The technology, known as Ensite Precision cardiac mapping, was developed at St. Jude Medical. It quickly creates a 3-D image of the heart that allows doctors to more precisely and accurately pinpoint problematic areas and cauterize, or burn, them so that electrical current can no longer enter through the scar tissue.

The new technology maps the circuitry within the heart to a fraction of a millimeter — and does it quickly, said John Day, an electrophysiologist at the center's Heart Institute.

This makes the process speedier, which is especially important with older patients, like Bradford, who do not recover from general anesthesia as fast, Day said.

Additionally, it is more stable. The mapping isn't thrown off if a patient moves, which could happen with previous technology, he added.

The technology provides "better success and a lower risk of complication," Day said.

It just received approval from the Food and Drug Administration last week, Day said, but he had trained on it previously.

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