Successful Treatment for Long-Term Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Catheter ablation more effective among longterm atrial fibrillation patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Radiofrequency catheter ablation is a procedure found to aid some patients with a persistent common heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. However little data has been available to indicate how individuals fare in the long run.

New research suggests the ablation offers favorable outcomes, though the treatment is not successful for all patients.

Most patients with an irregular heartbeat first try medication. Ablation, a newer treatment that is still being studied, may be an option if drugs are not effective.

During the procedure, small flexible wires are inserted in the groin and threaded to the heart where an attached electrode sends out radio waves. These waves create heat and destroy the cardiac tissue causing the arrhythmia to prevent recurrences of atrial fibrillation or prevent symptoms.

"Discuss arrhythmia treatment options with your cardiologist."

Roland Richard Tilz, MD, a lead author from the Department of Cardiology at Asklepios Klinik St. Georg in Germany, initiated the study because long-term research has been lacking when it comes to ablation for treating atrial fibrillation. Most previous studies have followed patients short term.

During the study investigators followed 202 persistent atrial fibrillation patients with an average age of 61 for nearly 5 years. Most participants underwent several ablation treatments over the course of the study.

After the initial treatment, 20 percent, or 41 patients, were found to have a normal heart rhythm. Following multiple ablation procedures, 45 percent of patients no longer experienced an abnormal heart rhythm.

Participants who had experienced atrial fibrillation for less than two years were more likely to benefit from treatment. Among patients who had an arrhythmia for fewer than two years, 77 percent were successfully treated with ablation compared to 42 percent among those with atrial fibrillation for a duration greater than two years.

Researchers also found that individuals who had experienced atrial fibrillation for a shorter amount of time prior to ablation were less likely to experience a recurrence.

The study was recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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Review Date: 
October 16, 2012
Last Updated:
October 18, 2012