An irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation responds better to a procedure to inactivate a small area of heart tissue than to drugs. Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular pulse, a rapid and often weak heartbeat and may lead to stroke or heart failure.
In the study, 61 patients were randomly assigned to receive anti-arrhythmic drugs and 106 had radiofrequency catheter ablation. In this procedure, a tiny tube called a catheter is threaded into the heart through a blood vessel to direct a pulse of low-voltage high frequency energy.
After nine months, 66 percent of those treated by procedure were free of arrhythmia compared to 16 percent of those treated with drugs. There were also fewer adverse reactions in the first month among those treated with catheter ablation than among those treated with drugs, and quality of life was rated better. The investigators suggest that patients with atrial fibrillation try a medication first. If it does not work, the ablation procedure could be the next step.
[Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 27, 2010]