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Study: Ablation Beats Drugs for Atrial Fibrillation

Catheter Ablation Better Than Drugs at Treating Some Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Catheter Ablation Beats Drugs

The international study conducted by Wilber and colleagues included 167 patients with intermittent, symptomatic episodes of atrial fibrillation who had been treated unsuccessfully with at least one drug for arrhythmia.

All of the patients had experienced at least three symptomatic A-fib episodes within six months of enrollment.

A total of 106 had the catheter procedure and 61 were treated with drugs approved for A-fib treatment that they had not previously taken. Drugs included dofetilide (Tikosyn), flecainide (Tambocor), propafenone (Rythmol), sotalol (Betapace), or quinidine.

After nine months of follow-up, 66% of patients in the catheter ablation group remained free of verified A-fib with symptoms vs. 16% of patients treated with drugs.

Burr Hall, MD, who was involved in the study, says the findings show a clear benefit for patients with intermittent A-fib who have tried drug treatments.

Hall leads the electrophysiology team at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

“This subset represents a large number of the A-fib patients in this country,” he tells WebMD.

Another major study is under way to determine if ablation patients live longer than patients treated with drugs.

American Heart Disease spokesman Kenneth Ellenbogen, MD, says the study should increase awareness within the medical community about the superiority of catheter ablation in this group of patients.

“Catheter ablation is incredibly effective and far more effective than drugs in patients who have already failed drug therapy,” he tells WebMD.

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