St. Jude Medical said Monday it has acquired a Swiss company that developed technology to measure force in the heart during a certain coronary procedure.

Maplewood-based St. Jude will pay $170 million for Geneva-based Endosense and could pay up to $161 million more based on achievement and timing of regulatory milestones.

Endosense, founded in 2003, developed the TactiCath irrigated ablation catheter to give physicians a real-time, objective measure of the force they apply to the heart wall during a catheter ablation procedure. Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure in which the surgeon threads a flexible thin tube through the blood vessels to the heart to ablate abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue.

Catheter ablation is used if medicine is not effective in treating atrial fibrillation. Doctors use the catheter to deliver radio waves that create heat or freezing cold to destroy heart tissue that causes atrial fibrillation.

Without force data, physicians have to estimate the amount of force they apply to the heart wall with the catheter. If too little force is used, the ablation may be incomplete and the patient could need additional procedures. On the other hand, too much force risks ­tissue injury.

According to St. Jude, the force-sensing technology from Endosense will provide "a strong, patent-protected platform for future product development." The company also sees immediate opportunities to integrate the technology into other St. Jude products.

"The acquisition of Endosense further strengthens our industry-leading portfolio of products to treat patients with cardiac arrhythmias, and provides an opportunity to accelerate our market share capture in the $900 million global cardiac ablation catheter market," Frank Callaghan, president of the Cardiovascular and Ablation Technologies division of St. Jude, said in a statement.

St. Jude said it will pay for the acquisition with available cash from outside the U.S.

In a note to investors Monday, analyst Danielle Antalffy of Leerink Swann Research said the move by St. Jude "closes the technological gap" between St. Jude and Johnson & Johnson in the area of ablation therapy. "To us, contact force-sensing catheter technology is the wave of the future for AF (atrial fibrillation) ablation — as evidenced by the impressive clinical data generated thus far," she wrote.

The move, she said, will further solidify St. Jude's position as a top competitor.

St. Jude shares closed down 3 cents at $51.44 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday.