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Ablation “better than heart drugs”


An irregular heartbeat condition can be treated far better by burning sections of the heart than with drugs, US researchers have said.

The treatment, catheter ablation, is much better for treating the condition called atrial fibrillation, according to a newly published study.

Patients with an early form of the disease called paroxysmal or intermittent atrial fibrillation were studied by Dr David Wilber, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. The condition is an irregular heart rhythm originating in the small upper chambers of the heart that can lead to strokes and heart failure.

Dr Wilber’s study involved treating 167 patients with either drugs to control their heartbeats or catheter ablation, in which doctors cauterize parts of the heart muscle causing erratic electrical signals.

He found 66% of patients with atrial fibrillation who received ablation were free of recurrent symptoms a year after treatment, compared with 16% of those treated with drugs. None of the ablation patients had serious complications like heart attacks or strokes.

The results were so convincing that the trial was halted early. Dr Wilber’s study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Copyright Press Association 2010
Heart Research UK

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