Surgery May Be Best for Irregular Heartbeat in
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Young people with the
kind of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation may be
better off undergoing surgery to fix the problem instead of taking
medication first, a new study suggests.
Atrial fibrillation, which causes a person's pulse rate to
change from minute to minute, can boost the risk of stroke and
cause other problems. The condition is rare in younger people and
can occur for no known reason.
There are a number of treatments for atrial fibrillation,
including medication, cardioversion (in which a doctor shocks the
heart to try to restore it to a normal rhythm) and catheter
ablation (a surgery that destroys the tissue in the heart that
causes the problem).
A heart specialist who's familiar with the new study findings
said ablation is indeed a worthwhile alternative. "Younger patients
tend to respond very well to this therapy," said Dr. John Day,
medical director of heart rhythm services at Intermountain Medical
Center in Murray, Utah.
In the study, which was released online Sept. 21 in advance of
publication in the journal
Circulation: Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology, researchers examined the medical records of 1,548 patients who underwent catheter ablation between 2000 and 2008 in the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The average age of the patients was 56 years, and 70 percent were men.
The investigators found that younger patients had fewer
complications than older ones and did just as well after the
surgery. A year after surgery, 87 percent of the patients under the
age of 45 had experienced little or no atrial fibrillation.
Why choose the surgery instead of medication? "While atrial
fibrillation is more common with increasing age, clinical
experience has suggested that younger patients tend to be more
symptomatic and less willing to take long-term medications," Dr.
Peter Leong-Sit, study lead author and an arrhythmia physician at
London Health Sciences-University Hospital in London, Ontario,
Canada, said in a news release from the American Heart
The surgery isn't cheap. It can cost $30,000-$40,000, Day noted.
But studies have shown it can be cheaper in the long run if the
alternative is a lifetime of medications and complicated testing
and care, he added.
For more about
atrial fibrillation, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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