New study shows need to rethink Atrial Fibrillation treatment

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Canada (Commonwealth Union) – Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an unusual heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, strokes and heart failure. Advanced age usually above 65 increases the risk of AF. A study led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers at the Centre for Cardiovascular Innovation has given new insights on treating AF more effectively.

The research was, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrating early intervention with cryoballoon catheter ablation also known as cryoablation has increased efficiency in lowering the risk of the severe long-term health impacts, in contrast to the presently used first step in treating, antiarrhythmic drugs.

Associate professor of medicine for UBC and director of Heart Rhythm Services at Vancouver General Hospital, Dr. Jason Andrade, stated that treating patients with cryoablation right from the beginning, results in less people progressing to persistent greater life-threatening forms of atrial fibrillation. “In the short term, this can mean less recurrences of arrhythmia, improved quality of life and fewer visits to the hospital. In the long run, this can translate into a reduced risk of stroke and other serious heart problems,” he said.

Cryoablation is a much lower invasive method that guides a tiny tube into the heart to destroy problematic tissue with cold temperatures. Historically, the procedure was kept as a secondary option for patients not responding to antiarrhythmic drugs. Dr. Andrade noted that the research adds to the increasing body of evidence that early intervention with cryoablation may be a better form of a first therapy in the appropriate patients.

The new findings continue from a prior paper in which Dr. Andrade and his team showed that cryoablation was a better option than antiarrhythmic drugs at lowering the short-term recurrence of AF that impacts almost 3% of the population, equating to roughly a million Canadians.

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