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This treatment may be better for abnormal heartbeats

A cardiologist speaks on his research that shows ablation may be a more beneficial treatment for abnormal heartbeats than medicine
Credit: AP

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular heartbeat that can cause poor blood flow. It can lead to blood clots, stroke, and in some cases, heart failure. 

Oussama Wazni, MD, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, said it’s important to see your doctor if it feels like your heart flip-flops or skips a beat.

“If we wait too long to address atrial fibrillation, it is more difficult for us to manage it,” he said.

Traditionally, medication is the first treatment used to manage intermittent AFib.

If medication doesn’t work, doctors will try a procedure called an ablation.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, ablation uses small burns or freezes to cause some scarring on the inside of the heart to help break up the electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats. This can help the heart maintain a normal heart rhythm. 

Dr. Wazni led a clinical trial that found a certain type of ablation is safe and more effective than the initial treatment.

Researchers looked at 203 patients at 24 hospitals around the U.S. Patients received the standard medication or a cryo balloon ablation. 

After a year, 75% of the patients who received an ablation were still free from AFib. In comparison, only 45% of the patients who received medication were still AFib-free.

“If you take into account the success rate of the ablation itself, 75 percent versus 45 percent, that’s very good news for our patients. But, also, if you take into account health care utilization, those patients took medication and a big proportion of them still ended up needing an ablation,” says Dr. Wazni.

“Maybe it’s time to circumvent needing to take an anti-arrhythmic drug, with all the side effects, and ineffectiveness, and just proceed with an ablation.”

This FDA-regulated study could change how doctors treat AFib in the future.

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