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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Study: Ablation Beats Drugs for Atrial Fibrillation

Catheter Ablation Better Than Drugs at Treating Some Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Atrial Fibrillation: One Patient’s Story continued...

The busy chairwoman of a Chicago-area high school English department, Clark was hesitant to have catheter ablation until June of last year.

“I had a nasty fall after waking up at 4 in the morning with A-fib,” she says. “I went to get more medicine to calm my heart and the next thing I knew I was on the floor of the bathroom wedged between the toilet and shower. That really frightened me, and I don’t frighten easily.”

Her procedure took four hours, and recovery took about a week. Clark was back at work in two weeks and she hasn’t had an A-fib episode since. She has much more energy than before the catheter ablation, even though she has been under tremendous stress.

Her mother and a close friend died unexpectedly in the weeks following her ablation, and her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, was hospitalized with pneumonia.

“I have more strength than I have had in years,” she says. “I don’t think I could have gotten through the last few weeks without it.”

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.

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