Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital has partnered with healthcare company Abbott—previously known as St. Jude Medical—to become a training center for doctors to learn how to use new medical technology.

Hospital officials said the facility’s on-site cardiac catheterization laboratory, where a variety of heart procedures take place, now acts as a training ground for specialty electrophysiology equipment. The first training session was held June 21.

Taylor Thompson, director of the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab, said Houston Methodist will become a training ground for doctors from all over the U.S. to come to The Woodlands and learn the new techniques.

“Our training site will not only train Abbott employees from other areas of the country to use this new technology but will also train physicians so they can bring these cutting-edge procedures to areas without them,” Thompson said. “Only a handful of cath labs in the United States have the technology we have been using to treat members of Montgomery County for the past year.”

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, creating high demand for cardiac innovation, according to healthcare officials.

Dr. Rajesh Venkataraman is an electrophysiologist—a specialized cardiologist who manages complex cardiac arrhythmias— and is one of the doctors working with the new technologies. He said the two new devices, the Ensite Precision Cardiac Mapping System and the Mediguide GPS System, allow doctors to get a clearer picture of a patient’s heart while operating.

“The Ensite Precision Cardiac Mapping System and the Mediguide GPS System work hand in hand to give us a full 3-D map of the patient’s heart and pinpoint very accurate landmarks in the heart,” Venkataraman said. “This allows physicians to know exactly where he or she is working in the heart. This technology allows for safer and quicker procedures with better results.”

Venkataraman said in previous cases, some cardiac procedures could take six hours to perform but now can be done is less than half that time. It also allows doctors to perform procedures with very little fluoroscopy time, meaning the patients and staff are exposed to minimal radiation from the X-ray equipment normally used in these cases.

Thompson said he believes the mapping technology is a significant advance for the area.

“What makes our Abbott electrophysiology lab so significant for Houston is that it gives us the ability to treat our families and friends with the latest technology and give them the best results,” he said. “You can’t go anywhere else in the world and get better treatment than you can right here in The Woodlands at the hands of Dr. Rajesh Venkataraman.”