A national study led by UBC researchers at the Centre for Cardiovascular Innovation is shedding light on how to more effectively treat atrial fibrillation (AF) — a common heart rhythm problem associated with increased risk of stroke and heart failure.
The study, published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows that early intervention with cryoballoon catheter ablation (cryoablation) is more effective at reducing the risk of serious long-term health impacts, when compared to the current first step in treatment, antiarrhythmic drugs.
“By treating patients with cryoablation right from the start, we see fewer people advancing to persistent, more life-threatening forms of atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Jason Andrade, an associate professor of medicine at UBC and director of Heart Rhythm Services at Vancouver General Hospital. “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.”
Cryoablation is a minimally invasive procedure that involves guiding a small tube into the heart to kill problematic tissue with cold temperatures. Historically, the procedure has been reserved as a secondary treatment when patients don’t respond to antiarrhythmic drugs.
“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that early intervention with cryoablation may be a more effective initial therapy in the appropriate patients,” says Dr. Andrade.
Early intervention halts disease progression
AF affects approximately three per cent of the population, or more than one million Canadians.
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