A new research from UC Davis physicians shows that using catheter-based ablation instead of medications alone reduces the risks of death and stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
Ablation is currently only recommended when AFib medications don't work or aren't well tolerated. As the lead author Uma Srivatsa, professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis Health said, less than 2 percent of patients undergo ablation early in the course of AFib when the procedure can be most beneficial.
According to the study, ablation shows apparent benefits in reducing mortality and stroke in a long-term period.
The group with pure medication and the group with ablation are similar in terms of rates of death, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke within 30 days of hospitalization. However, beyond 30 days, the benefits of ablation were apparent:
- 84 patients in the ablation group died, versus 189 in the medication group
- 55 patients in the ablation group had ischemic strokes, versus 86 in the medication group
- 17 patients in the ablation group had hemorrhagic strokes, versus 53 in the medication group
It's estimated that at least 2.7 million Americans have AFib. People with AFib feel the heart beats inconsistently due to uncoordinated signals between its upper chambers. The condition can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain, and is associated with increased risks of stroke and death.
Medications can help reduce AFib symptoms and risks by controlling heart rate and rhythm and reducing blood clots. Ablation is a more long-term solution that involves using heat or extreme cold to destroy the heart tissue responsible for the faulty electrical signals, reducing the need for rhythm-control medications.
The study data supports wider utilization of ablation along with improving the awareness of its benefits.