Doctors & patients are saying about 'A-Fib.com'...


"A-Fib.com is a great web site for patients, that is unequaled by anything else out there."

Dr. Douglas L. Packer, MD, FHRS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

"Jill and I put you and your work in our prayers every night. What you do to help people through this [A-Fib] process is really incredible."

Jill and Steve Douglas, East Troy, WI 

“I really appreciate all the information on your website as it allows me to be a better informed patient and to know what questions to ask my EP. 

Faye Spencer, Boise, ID, April 2017

“I think your site has helped a lot of patients.”

Dr. Hugh G. Calkins, MD  Johns Hopkins,
Baltimore, MD


Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...


"If I had [your book] 10 years ago, it would have saved me 8 years of hell.”

Roy Salmon, Patient, A-Fib Free,
Adelaide, Australia

"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su,
Cavanaugh Heart Center, 
Phoenix, AZ

"...masterful. You managed to combine an encyclopedic compilation of information with the simplicity of presentation that enhances the delivery of the information to the reader. This is not an easy thing to do, but you have been very, very successful at it."

Ira David Levin, heart patient, 
Rome, Italy

"Within the pages of Beat Your A-Fib, Dr. Steve Ryan, PhD, provides a comprehensive guide for persons seeking to find a cure for their Atrial Fibrillation."

Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA


Research

PODCAST 2: What Do You REALLY Pay to Continue Living with Atrial Fibrillation?

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Note: If you prefer to read instead of listening, click the transcript graphic bar below for the printed version.

The REAL Cost of Living with Atrial Fibrillation 

What does A-Fib REALLY cost you? To you physically? To your Quality of Life (QoL)? And to your pocketbook? That’s the topic of this podcast between Steve and our friend, Travis Van Slooten, publisher of LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com. (About 28 min. in length.)

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

There are two costs of living with atrial fibrillation: financial and quality of life costs. Both are very high!

Financial Costs

 A-Fib costs the United States about 6 billion each year.
 Medical costs for people who have A-Fib are about $8,705 higher per year than for people who do not have A-Fib.
 There are 750,000 hospitalizations each year because of A-Fib.

Quality of Life Costs

 Atrial fibrillation is a progressive disease that tends to get worse over time.
 Frequent A-Fib episodes enlarge and weaken your heart and can lead to other heart problems, including heart failure and other cardiovascular problems.
 Ongoing A-Fib can remodel your heart (change how your heart works), produce fibrosis (fiber-like, immobile tissue) or permanently scar your heart.
 You’re losing 15% to 30% of your normal pumping ability of your heart when you’re in A-Fib.
 Frequent or prolonged episodes of atrial fibrillation tend to stretch and dilate your left atrium. In the extreme, you lose all contracting ability and function of your left atrium.
 If you leave someone in A-Fib, the A-Fib attacks tend to become longer and more frequent.
 One study showed that half the people who managed their A-Fib with rate control drugs went into long-standing persistent A-Fib within a year. (CB de Vos, 2010)
 A-Fib is strongly linked with developing dementia (because you’re not getting enough blood to your brain and to the rest of your body).
 The aim should be to stop an A-Fib episode NOT just control an episode (i.e. slow the heart rate while in A-Fib).
 Today’s anti-arrhythmic drugs only work about 40% of the time, have bad side-effects or don’t work at all. If they do work, they often lose their effectiveness over time.
 Patients with persistent or long-standing persistent A-Fib: If you have been told there is no treatment besides taking drugs to manage your A-Fib, DON’T BUY IT! You have options!
 The Castle AF Trial reveals ablations on heart failure patients with paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation resulted in a 47% reduction in death rates. In the catheter ablation group, 60% improved their ejection fraction by more than 35%! And after 5 years, 60% of the ablation group were in normal sinus rhythm compared to 22% receiving normal drug therapy.
 The goal for every A-Fib patient should be to end their A-Fib and not just manage or tolerate it!

Resources mentioned in this episode

 Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet from the CDC
♥ Editorial: Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!
♥ de Vos CB, et all. Progression from paroxysmal to persistent atrial fibrillation clinical correlates and prognosis. (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010)
♥ 2018 AF Symposium: Findings from the CASTLE-AF Clinical Trial
♥ Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation with Heart Failure (N Engl J Med 2018)


Travis Van Slooten was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation on Father’s Day in 2006. He would battle a-fib for nine years before having a successful catheter ablation in March 2015. He’s been a-fib-free since with no drugs! His blog covers his own journey and provides information, inspiration, and support for others with A-Fib. Visit his site.

Transcript: The REAL Cost of Living with Atrial Fibrillation

Anticoagulants Increase Risk of Hemorrhagic-Type Strokes as Well

Background: Of late we’ve written a lot about A-Fib stroke and the risk of Ischemic stroke which occurs when a clot blocks an artery to the brain.
While it is by far the most common kind of stroke among A-Fib patients, there is another type of stroke threat, an Intracerebral Hemorrhagic stroke. An ICH stroke is caused by a leaked or ruptured blood vessel in the brain. Although less common in A-Fib patients, an ICH stroke can be just as devastating, even deadly.

Anticoagulants and Intracerebral Hemorrhage Stroke (ICH)

For A-Fib patients, anticoagulants are used for the prevention of clots and stroke. But according to Dr. M. Edip Gurol, anticoagulants may actually increase the risk of Intracerebral Hemorrhagic (ICH) stroke.

While Intracerebral Hemorrhagic (ICH) stroke is less common than Ischemic stroke, it is a more deadly and disabling type of stroke. Although accounting for only 15 percent of all strokes, hemorrhagic strokes are responsible for about 40 percent of all stroke deaths.

Dr, M. Edip Gurol

Dr. M. Edip Gurol’s comments are published in the March 18, 2018 issue Cardiac Rhythm News. A stroke neurologist specialist at Mass. General Hospital, he has a particular expertise in the care of patients at high risk for ischaemic (blockage type) strokes and haemorrhages.

According to Dr. Gurol, over 50% of patients sustaining a warfarin-related intracerebral hemorrhagic [ICH] stroke die within the first three months.

Are the outcomes any better for patients on the newer NOACs (New Oral Anticoagulants) who have an ICH? No, the outcomes are just as dismal, similar to patients having a warfarin-related ICH stroke.

The Link With Cerebral Microbleeds (CMBs)

Growing evidence suggests a link between cerebral microbleeds (small chronic brain hemorrhages of the small vessels of the brain) and increased risk of intracerebral hemorrhage stroke (ICH).

This has led to concerns about the safety of administering anticoaglulant drugs in patients with cerebral microbleeds (CMBs).

About cerebral microbleeds, Dr. Gurol warns:

“The presence of one or more CMBs [cerebral microbleeds] conferred a five to six times higher ICH (hemorrhagic stroke) risk,”
OACs [anticoagulants] are not benign medications in patients with CMBs even without a history of brain bleed.”

LEFT: Brain MRIs of two microbleeds in the same older adult with A-Fib taking an NOAC (red arrows point to tiny microbleed dots). RIGHT: Two years later, the patient had a hemorrhagic stroke and died. The right MRI shows the fatal hemorrhage.

How Common are Cerebral Microbleeds?

Long-term research studies using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs), show cerebral microbleeds are already present at middle age and their prevalence rises strongly with increasing age. Microbleeds rarely disappear.

One recent MRI study found evidence of microbleeds in 99% of subjects aged 65 or older, and that increasing the imaging strength increased the number of detectable microbleeds.

Anticoagulants are not benign medications in patients with CMBs [cerebral microbleeds] even without a history of brain bleed. Dr. M. Edip Gurol

Are You at Risk?

Should A-Fib patients over age 65 be taking anticoagulants for the rest of their lives? According to Dr. Gurol and his research, probably not.

In the decades-long population-based Rotterdam Study, the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage stroke was found to increase as the number of microbleeds increased.

Since almost everyone over age 65 has microbleeds, it’s all too easy for long-term anticoagulants to expand those microbleeds into full blown Intracerebral hemorrhagic strokes (ICHs).

Are There Alternatives to a Lifetime on Anticoagulants?

Yes, there are alternatives to having to take anticoagulants for the rest of your life. Read my articles: Watchman Better Than Warfarin and Are Anticoagulants Risky if Over Age 65?

Or…get your A-Fib cured so you don’t need to take an anticoagulant at all.

Resources for this Article

PODCAST: Marijuana—Good, Bad or Ugly for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation?

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Note: If you prefer to read instead of listening to the audio, click below on the transcript graphic bar to roll down the printed version.

Podcast Introduction 

Our friend, Travis Van Slooten is publisher of LivingWithAtrialFibrillation.com. With marijuana legal in a growing number of U.S. states, he invited Steve to join him on his podcast and share the latest about marijuana use by A-Fib patients. (About 18 min. in length.)

Here are the highlights of this podcast:

We do not have a lot of clinical data on marijuana and atrial fibrillation simply because it’s so new. What we know is often anecdotal at this point.
Some A-Fib patients say it helps them. Others say it puts them into A-Fib.
There has been some research saying that smoking marijuana might lead to the development of A-Fib and it may affect the cardiovascular system, but this is general data without a whole lot of really hard studies confirming that.
If there is any benefit of marijuana for A-Fib, the best form is probably CBD in edible form (but we really don’t know for sure).
An unpublished study followed 6 million heart failure patients. Those in the group that were non-dependent on marijuana were 18% less likely to develop A-Fib. Dependent marijuana users were 31% less likely to experience A-Fib.

Resources mentioned in this episode

States Where Marijuana is Legal
FAQs Coping with A-Fib: Marijuana


Travis Van Slooten was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation on Father’s Day in 2006. He would battle a-fib for nine years before having a successful catheter ablation in March 2015. He’s been a-fib-free since with no drugs! His blog covers his own journey and provides information, inspiration, and support for others with A-Fib. Visit his site.

Transcript: Marijuana and Atrial Fibrillation

A-Fib Produces More Ischemic Strokes, Despite Improvements in Stroke Prevention

A good friend of ours with A-Fib recently had a crippling ischemic stroke, even though her INR on Coumadin was 2.5, right in the middle of the desired range. Her left side is paralyzed. It’s heartbreaking to eat dinner with her and watch food dribble from the side of her mouth.  She’s getting good care and physical therapy, but she will probably never recover fully.

A-Fib Ischemic Stroke All Too Common

A recent retrospective study of more than 930,000 stroke patients found that 20% of acute ischemic stroke patients had A-Fib in 2014, up from 16% in 2003.

CT brain with Ischemic stroke at A-Fib.com

CT brain with Ischemic stroke

And despite recent improvements in stroke treatment outcomes (and stroke prevention), the negative effect of A-Fib was pretty much the same over the 12-year period of the study. Nearly 10% of A-Fib stroke patients died (“mortality”), compared to about 6% for patients without A-Fib.

According to co-author Dr. Mohamad Alkhouli of West Virginia University in Morgantown,

…the prevalence of A-Fib among patients admitted with acute ischemic stroke is rising, especially among white and elderly patients.

A-Fib stroke patients in this study were older (82 versus 70 years), more likely to be female (59.3% versus 51.8%, and Caucasian (80.6% versus 67.3%). (Females on average live about 5 years longer than males. Increased stroke probably relates to the fact that females live longer than males rather than female gender. See Being a Woman Not a Risk Factor for Stroke)

A-Fib Ischemic Stroke Worse Than “Normal” Stroke

The authors found that A-Fib patients were more likely to receive thrombolytic therapy. But even so, they showed worse outcomes, with 9.9% dying versus 6.1% of the non-A-Fib patients. And the A-Fib group had a higher rate of acute kidney injury, bleeding, infectious complications, and severe disability. They had longer hospital stays, higher costs of care, and more non-home discharges.

Danger of Hemorrhagic Stroke

This study didn’t investigate hemorrhagic stroke which is more likely to happen with increased age. 99% of people over age 65 have microbleeds in the brain. Taking anticoagulants to decrease the risk of an ischemic stroke can turn these microbleeds into full hemorrhagic strokes. Older A-Fib patients are between a rock and a hard place. See Anticoagulants Risky over Age 65.

Don’t Just Live With Your A-Fib

Living with A-Fib, especially as you get older, is often a death sentence. Don’t settle for a life on meds. Seek your cure!

Resources for this Article

Anticoagulants, Dementia and Atrial Fibrillation

The prevalence of dementia and atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) are both on the rise with the aging population and increasing burden of vascular risk factors.

The association between A-Fib and dementia is well documented. To describe that relationship, researchers use the term “strongly associated” rather than explicitly state that A-Fib causes or leads to dementia. That’s as far as they can go, because there might be other factors at play.

Patients with A-Fib lose 15%-30% of their heart’s ability to pump blood to their brain, and to the rest of their body.

A-Fib Linked with Dementia

As patients, we use more direct language. All things being equal, we say A-Fib leads to and/or causes dementia. It makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it? Patients with A-Fib lose 15%-30% of their heart’s ability to pump blood to their brain, and to the rest of their body. (See: Increased Dementia Risk Caused by A-Fib: 20 Year Study Findings)

Research confirms that older adults with dementia had significantly reduced blood flow into the brain compared with older adults with normal brain function or young adults.

Research Reveals: Anticoagulants Reduce Risk of Dementia

Swedish study investigated the effect of anticoagulation on the development of dementia among A-Fib patients. Research data was collected on patients diagnosed with and treated for A-Fib in Sweden between 2006-2014. This included 444,106 patients, and over 1.5 million patient-years.

The retrospective registry study compared the incidence of dementia developed in A-Fib patients with and without ongoing anticoagulation with warfarin or direct oral anticoagulation (DOAC) (i.e., dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban).

This study of A-Fib patients found that anticoagulant treatment was associated with a 29% reduced risk of dementia. There was no difference in dementia risk between patients treated with warfarin and those treated with direct oral anticoagulants. 

It’s encouraging to know that, if you have A-Fib and must take anticoagulants, they may reduce dementia to a limited degree.

The authors concluded that the risk of dementia is higher among A-Fib patients not treated with anticoagulation.

In fact, absence of anticoagulation treatment was among the strongest predictors for dementia along with age, Parkinson’s Disease, and alcohol abuse.

Anticoagulants May Reduce Micro-Clots

This study did not tell us how anticoagulation achieves this effect.

Some speculate that anticoagulants, while preventing macro-clots (strokes), also prevent or reduce micro-clots and smaller ischemic events which damage the brain over time.

Another Reason to Not Live with A-Fib

This study also raises another reason not to live in A-Fib if at all possible. Unlike macro-clots which cause strokes and which can kill or severely disable, A-Fib tends to produce micro-clots (smaller ischemic events or silent mini-strokes). The effect of micro-clots may not even be noticeable but, nonetheless, damages our brains over time.

Resources for this Article

 

Left Atrial Appendage (LAA): An Under-Recognized Trigger Site of Atrial Fibrillation

Recurrence of A-Fib after an ablation is very disappointing and frustrating both for patients and for EPs performing the ablation.

A link to the source of A-Fib recurrence may have been found. A study by Dr. Di Biase and his colleagues established that the LAA is responsible for a great deal of A-Fib recurrence.

Research: LAA Responsible for 27% of Recurrences

The multi-center study enrolled patients at leading medical centers in Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif, Rome and Venice, Italy, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.

In the study of 987 patients undergoing redo catheter ablations, 266 (27%) showed a prevalence of A-Fib triggers firing from the LAA.

In 32+% of these 266 patients, the LAA was the only source of arrhythmia signals.

Trial Design of LAA for Recurrences

The 266 patients were divided into three groups with different treatments. Each group was followed for 12+ months with these results:

  • Group 1. The LAA was not ablated (isolated); 74% of this group had recurrences of A-Fib.
  • Group 2. The LAA was ablated with focal lesions. 68% of this group had recurrences of A-Fib.
  • Group 3. The LAA was ablated by a circular catheter at the ostium of the LAA. 15% of this group had recurrences of A-Fib.

Trial Findings: LAA Responsible for Much A-FibLeft Atrial Appendage heart illustration

While this study was limited, as it only looked at redo ablations and recurrences, it’s significant. The patients (Group 3) who were ablated by a circular catheter at the ostium of the LAA, had a recurrence rate of only 15%!

Compared to 68% and 74%, this is a major, significant reduction in recurrences. This is great news for A-Fib patients undergoing a catheter ablation.

Trial results indicate that the LAA is responsible for a great deal of arrhythmia signals, probably more than any other area of the heart.

A-Fib Ablations: Check LAA for Non-PV Signals

Many EPs today aren’t aware of the importance of the LAA as a source of A-Fib signals and never even look at the LAA when doing an ablation. In the words of the study’s authors, “the LAA is an underestimated site of initiation of atrial fibrillation.

It’s good news that an increasing number of EPs after performing a PVI, then as their second step, map and ablate the LAA. This is especially in cases of persistent A-Fib and those with non-PV triggers. After the PVs are isolated, the LAA should be the next place to look. (Make sure your EP is one those who check the LAA!)

What This Means to Ablation Patients

This research is important not just for patients undergoing a redo catheter ablation but for any A-Fib patient seeking a catheter ablation.

Important when selecting your EP: When having a catheter ablation, no matter what kind of A-Fib you have, make sure your EP knows how, is experienced at, and routinely maps and ablates the LAA.

This may produce a more successful ablation and save you from a recurrence of A-Fib.

To learn more about the Left Atrial Appendage, see my article, The Role of the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) & Removal Issues.

Resources for this Article

Is Warfarin a Protective Factor for Cancer Among A-Fib Patients? Research Finds a Possible Link

A 7-year retrospective study of patients older than 50 years drawn from the Norwegian National Registry and other databases (1,256,725 persons), found a possible link between warfarin use and cancer prevention. Particularly for A-Fib patients.

Study Participants and Design

Warfarin (brand: Coumadin) tablets

Of the over one million patients in the combined databases, 48.3% were male, 51.7% were female, 7.4% were classified as warfarin users, and 92.6% were classified as nonusers. The participants were divided into 2 groups—warfarin users and nonusers.

Warfarin users had to be taking warfarin for at least 6 months and at least 2 years from first prescription to any cancer diagnosis.

A subgroup were persons taking warfarin for atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.

Study Findings: Warfarin Users vs. Nonusers

During the 7-year follow-up period, 10.6% (132,687) individuals developed cancer. There were 9.4% cancer diagnoses among the warfarin users and 10.6% among the nonusers.

Warfarin Users vs. Nonusers: Among warfarin users as compared with nonusers, there was a significantly lower incidence of cancer in all organ-specific sites (lung, prostate, and breast, except colon cancer).

A-Fib/A-Flutter group: The effect of warfarin use was more pronounced in the subgroup of patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter for all cancers (lung, prostate, and breast). These patients also had a significant reduction in colon cancer associated with warfarin use.

Interpreting the Study Results

Warfarin use may have broad anti-cancer potential (in patients older than 50).

“An unintended consequence of this switch to new oral anticoagulants (NOACs) may be an increased incidence of cancer.”

The study authors believe that warfarin’s vitamin K antagonism is the property that may prevent or hinder the progression of cancer.

They noted that new oral anticoagulants that require less monitoring are being used more often. “An unintended consequence of this switch to new oral anticoagulants may be an increased incidence of cancer, which is an important consideration for public health,” they cautioned.

James Lorens (University of Bergen) and co-investigators say their findings “could have important implications for the selection of medications for patients needing anticoagulation.”

What This Means to Patients

This begs the question, on the basis of this Norwegian study, Should A-Fib patients stop taking the new anticoagulants (NOACs) and switch back to warfarin?”  Probably not.

Warfarin blocks vitamin K and has bad side effects: The bad side effects of warfarin use include increased bleeding, hemorrhagic stroke, and microbleeds in the brain.

In addition, warfarin blocks vitamin K absorption, thereby depositing calcium in our arteries and progressively turns them into stone (hardening of the arteries). Vitamin K is essential for heart and bone health. For more, see my article, Stop Taking Warfarin―Produces Arterial Calcification.

Some comfort: If warfarin is your anticoagulant of choice, it’s good to know that it may have anti-cancer properties.

Resources for this Article

VIDEO: A-Fib Best Treated by Changes to Diet and Lifestyle Says Dr. John Mandrola 

Atrial Fibrillation videos at A-Fib.com

Dr. John Mandrola, MD, cardiac electrophysiologist, Louisville, KY, on the impact of lifestyle factors on patients with atrial fibrillation; how A-Fib can be a sign of metabolic risk factors like obesity, poor diet, sleep apnea, alcohol intake, and lack of exercise; and how managing these risk factors can reduce the risk of stroke, and make a significant impact on the patient’s heart rhythm and overall health. (5:29)

Posted by Dr. John McDougall; Interview from McDougall Advanced Study Weekend in Santa Rosa CA, 2016.

YouTube video playback controls: When watching this video, you have several playback options. The following controls are located in the lower right portion of the frame: Turn on closed captions, Settings (speed/quality), Watch on YouTube website, and Enlarge video to full frame. Click an icon to select.

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Return to Instructional A-Fib Videos and Animations

The Costs and Consequences of Living with Atrial Fibrillation

Our mission at A-Fib.com is, in part, “to empower patients to find their A-Fib cure or best outcome.” We often advise:

Don’t listen to doctors who want to just control your symptoms with drugs. Leaving patients in A-Fib overworks the heart, leads to fibrosis and increases the risk of stroke. The abnormal rhythm in your atria causes electrical changes and enlarges your atria (called remodeling) making it work harder and harder over time. Seek your Cure.

A Few CDC Facts About A-Fib

I was recently reminded of the other costs of living with Atrial Fibrillation when I re-read the  A-Fib Fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In part it reads: “More than 750,000 hospitalizations [in the U.S.] occur each year because of Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib). The death rate from A-Fib as the primary or a contributing cause of death has been rising for more than two decades.”

The A-Fib stat that jumped out at me was:

“Medical costs [in the U.S.] for people who have A-Fib are about $8,705 higher per year than for people who do not have A-Fib.”

How disconcerting! A-Fib costs you in many ways. Beyond the physical toll, staying in A-Fib with medication is costly to your wallet. Besides the annual costs of your medications, the odds of your being hospitalized increases. Just in terms of dollars and cents, A-Fib on average costs you an additional $8,700 a year.

To learn more, read my editorial, Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

How Much Will You Pay to Stay in A-Fib?

Remember: ‘A-Fib begets A-Fib.’ The longer you have A-Fib, the greater the risk of your A-Fib episodes becoming more frequent and longer, often leading to continuous (Chronic) A-Fib. (However, some people never progress to more serious A-Fib stages.)

When you add up all the costs (physical, emotional and monetary) of living in A-Fib, doesn’t it make sense to ‘Seek you Cure’?

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn all your treatment options.

Resources for this Article

Choosing Your Doctor: Good Rapport & Trust are Vital for Your Health

An A-Fib.com reader, now A-Fib-free after two ablations, wrote me about an experience with one EP she had consulted:

“I checked your website’s listing of EPs and was surprised to find (name withheld) listed under (affiliation withheld).

This is the EP who told me I was definitely not a candidate for ablation and I needed to just accept the fact that I needed to stay on basic medications (atenolol and Eliquis).  

This guy is a smooth talker and tells you how he “treats his patients just like they were his family members”.  

However, when I pressed him with questions, he told me that ‘he was the one who went to medical school’. I would never recommend this EP to anyone.”

Studies of Doctor-Patient Relationships

At A-Fib.com, we stress the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship and finding the right doctor for you and your treatment goals. Don’t just go to a doctor because their office is nearby.

Indeed, recent research proves that patients do better when they have a good rapport with their doctor. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed the results of 13 high-quality studies of doctor-patient relationships.

“Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to follow their advice, ask questions and discuss how treatments are working”, according to Dr. Gerald B. Hickson of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Doctors, in turn, may be more engaged.

Finding the Right Doctor for You

Caduceus at A-Fib.com

Which doctor?

If the first doctor you interview doesn’t meet your needs, move on the second (or third) doctor on your list, etc. Yes, I know it takes time and energy, but a good doctor-patient relationship is important. You’ll do better when you have a positive rapport with your doctor.

Read more at How to Find the Right Doctor for You and Your Treatment Goals.

References for this Article

Increasing Your Quality of Life: Catheter Ablation versus A-Fib Drugs

When seeking your Atrial Fibrillation cure, you’re often faced with the choices of catheter ablation versus antiarrhythmic drugs therapy.

We know from previous research studies that it’s safer to have an ablation versus living a life on antiarrhythmic drug therapy (AAD). (See Ablation Safer Than Life on Antiarrhythmic Drugs.)

But how do the two treatments compare when it comes to improvement in general health and ‘quality of life’?

Measuring ‘Quality of Life’

To determine success after treatment, researchers traditionally measure if A-Fib recurs using periodic ECGs. But this is “hardly a measure of successful treatment”, says Dr. Carina Blomstrom-Lundqvist, principal CAPTAF investigator from Uppsala University in Sweden.

CAPTAF stands for ‘Catheter Ablation compared with Pharmacological Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation‘.

The CAPTAF clinical trial is one of the first studies in which improvement in ‘quality of life’ was the goal. The trial compared the Atrial Fibrillation treatment effects of ablation versus antiarrhythmic drugs.

One-year results were presented in August at the 2017 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress.

The CAPTAF Clinical Study

The CAPTAF trial enrolled 155 symptomatic patients with paroxysmal or persistent A-Fib at four Swedish centers and at one center in Finland.

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

A-Fib Drug Therapies

All enrolled patients had to have failed one drug therapy (rate or rhythm control). The average age of the enrolled patients was 56 years. Nearly three-quarters had paroxysmal A-Fib. On average they had been diagnosed with A-Fib for about 5 years, and 70%-80% of the patients had severe or disabling symptoms.

Catheter ablation (RF)

Patients received a subcutaneously implantable cardiac monitor 2-m onths prior to the start of the study (to establish a baseline ‘burden’ of A-Fib, i.e. the proportion of time in A-Fib). Then participants were randomized to ablation with pulmonary vein isolation or antiarrhythmic drug therapy. (The study protocol required patients randomized to the ablation regimen to be completely off antiarrhythmic drugs by 6 months after their ablation procedure.)

The primary goal of the study was a change in general health-related quality of life.

CAPTAF Results: Overall Health & ‘Quality of Life’ Improved More after Ablation

Overall Health: After 12 months of follow-up, the ablation group showed a greater improvement in average overall health by 11.0 points versus 3.1 points improvement in the drug group (as measured by a standard survey instrument). The 8-point difference in gain between the two groups was statistically significant.

Quality of Life: The quality-of-life domains (general health, physical function, mental health, role-emotional, role-physical, and vitality) improved significantly more in the ablation group than in the drug group. No significant differences were shown in the remaining two domains (bodily pain and social functioning).

AF Burden: The AF burden of the ablation group was decreased by an average of 20% points versus 12% points among the group on antiarrhythmic drugs. The change from baseline did not reach statistical significance between treatment groups.

The complication rates were comparable between treatment groups.

Summarizing the Results

About the difference in quality of life, Dr. Carina Bloomstrom-Lindqvist, principal CAPTAF investigator, explained that continued treatment with an antiarrhythmic drug in the drug group of patients compared with no drug treatment in the ablated patients “is absolutely the explanation” for the observed difference in quality of life.

Regarding her findings, she said, “Using quality of life as the primary endpoint of a trial for the first time, we demonstrated that pulmonary vein isolation [PVI] is significantly more effective than antiarrhythmic drugs…even at an early stage of their disease.”

Want a Better Quality of Life? Get a Catheter Ablation

“Using quality of life as the primary endpoint…PVI is significantly more effective than antiarrhythmic drugs…”

The CAPTAF clinical study, though small, goes much further than previous studies and is a significant milestone for Atrial Fibrillation patients. This was one of the first studies to focus on quality of life after treatment.

The CAPTAF results prove scientifically that ablation works better for A-Fib patients than antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs).

If you have A-Fib and want to improve your quality of life―get a catheter ablation. It makes you feel better than a life on antiarrhythmic drugs.

Remember: Seek your Cure!
Anyone no longer in A-Fib can tell you how wonderful it is
to have a heart that beats normally again.

Resources for this Article

 

CASTLE AF Study: Live Longer―Have a Catheter Ablation!

Catheter ablation actually reduces death rates and hospital admissions. That’s the finding in the CASTLE AF trial, a key heart disease study, by Dr. Nassir Marrouche and his colleagues.

In a presentation at the 2017 European Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Marrouche described CASTLE-AF study participants as having A-Fib, advanced heart failure (i.e., low ejection fraction) and an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD).

The multicenter CASTLE-AF trial focused on patients with A-Fib and systolic heart failure.

The CASTLE-AF trial enrolled 398 patients in 33 sites across Europe, Australia and the US between 2008 and 2016. Patients were randomized to receive either radiofrequency catheter ablation or conventional drug treatment.

The study set out to definitively test the ability of A-Fib ablation to improve hard outcomes in patients with symptomatic paroxysmal or persistent A-Fib and a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of ≤35 percent (dangerously low percent). Median follow-up period was 37.8 months.

Results: Ablation Improves Quantity Not Just the Quality of Life

After catheter ablation, the death rate of trial patients was lowered by an amazing 47%! This is a lot better result than research studies using ICDs with drug therapy to lower the death rate in similar patients.

Before this study, catheter ablation was known to improve quality of life, but in this study it also improved life outcomes (the quantity of life, how long one lives).

In addition, there may be a “major impact” on reducing costs associated with hospitalizations.

Ablation Improves Ejection Fraction

Once we study the soon-to-be published CASTLE-AF results, we can document what we’ve often observed anecdotally, that catheter ablation improves lower-than-normal ejection fraction and consequently cures a major component of heart failure.

Dr. Marrouche recommends EPs treating heart failure patients with A-Fib to “ablate them early on, very soon in the disease stage.”

My Anecdotal Evidence: Just last month I advised a 73-year-old man in persistent A-Fib to have an ablation by Dr. Andrea Natale. After only one month in sinus, his ejection fraction improved from a low 35% to a normal 55% (normal range is 50 to 75 percent)!

The CASTLE-AF study could pave the way for wider adoption of catheter ablation for treatment of A-Fib.

Even though he’s only a month into his blanking period, he feels terrific.

Wider Adoption of Catheter Ablation?

The CASTLE-AF study results could be a game changer for Atrial Fibrillation patients! Results could pave the way for wider adoption of catheter ablation and may prompt changes in current guidelines for treatment.

CASTLE-AF stands for Catheter Ablation versus Standard conventional Treatment in patients with LEft ventricular dysfunction and Atrial Fibrillation

Resources for this Article

Research Supports It: ‘If You Don’t Like Your Doctor, Look For a New One!’

If you like, trust and respect your doctor(s), you’re more likely to accept and follow their advice. It’s intuitive, isn’t it? But now a review of studies backs it up. Developing a good relationship helps you feel comfortable asking questions and getting feedback in a give-and-take environment.

Relationship-Based Strategies Improve Patients’ Health

The more people like their doctors, the healthier they tend to be. This is what researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found in a review study where they examined 13 research reports on this subject.

If you like, trust and respect your doctor(s), you’re more likely to accept and follow their advice.

A mega-study review looked at doctors who were trained in “relationship-based strategies” such as making eye contact, listening well, and helping patients set goals.

The results: these strategies significantly improved their patients’ health compared to control groups. Their patients achieved lower blood pressure, increased their weight loss, reduced pain and improved glucose management.

If You Don’t Like Your Doctor, Look For a New One!

If you don’t have a good rapport with your current doctors―even if they are “the best” in their field―it’s worth looking elsewhere for a new doctor.

Stethoscope and EKG tracing at A-Fib.com

Know When it’s Time to Fire Your Doctor

In the article, Know When it’s Time to Fire your Doctor, CNN.com Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen discusses five ways to know when it’s time to think about leaving your doctor, and the best way to do it. The highlights are:

1. When your doctor doesn’t like it when you ask questions
2. When your doctor doesn’t listen to you
3. If your doctor can’t explain your illness to you in terms you understand
4. If you feel bad when you leave your doctor’s office
5. If you feel your doctor just doesn’t like you — or if you don’t like him or her

Being the “Best in the Field” Isn’t Enough

Even if a doctor(s) is the best in their field and an expert in your condition, that may not help you if you don’t communicate well with them and don’t relate to them. If we don’t like our doctors, we’re less likely to listen to them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Your Doctor

Doctor shopping? Caduceus at A-Fib.com

Doctor shopping?

Changing doctors can be scary. According to Robin DiMatteo, a researcher at the University of California at Riverside who’s studied doctor-patient communication. “”I really think it’s a fear of the unknown. But if the doctor isn’t supporting your healing or health, you should go.”

Finding a new doctor: To learn how, read our page: How to find the right doctor for you and your treatment goals.

Resources for this article

Your Life-Threatening Risk of A-Fib with Untreated Sleep Apnea

At least 43% of patients with Atrial Fibrillation suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as well. In his A-Fib story, Kevin Sullivan, age 46, wrote about his discovering his Sleep Apnea on his own and the effect on his A-Fib. He wrote:

“My A-Fib seemed to start at night while I was sleeping. One night when I woke up, my heart was racing and I felt sweaty. I started reading about things which contribute to A-Fib and learned that high thyroid levels and sleep apnea contribute to the condition. My brother had sleep apnea, so that made me think I might as well.

When I asked my doctor about it, he told me that it was unlikely because I was not overweight and I did not feel tired during the day.

I went to a sleep lab anyway, and it turned out that I did have sleep apnea. My A-Fib was being triggered by apnea episodes during the night. I got an CPAP machine to address the sleep apnea and hoped that was the end of my A-Fib….

To read the rest of Kevin Sullivan’s A-Fib story, go to: A-Fib Patient Story: Overcoming Silent A-Fib—Ablation by Dr. Patrawala.

Sleep Apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Risk of A-Fib with Untreated Sleep Apnea

It is now established that there’s a connection between Sleep Apnea and A-Fib.

If you have untreated Sleep Apnea, you are at greater risk of having a more severe form of A-Fib or of not benefiting from an A-Fib treatment. To learn more about sleep studies, see my article: Sleep Apnea: Home Testing with WatchPAT Device and the Philips Respironics

More EPs are Sending Patients for Sleep Studies

So many A-Fib patients also suffer from sleep apnea that many Electrophysiologists (EPs) routinely send their patients for a sleep apnea study. Some A-Fib centers have their own sleep study program. (The patient just walks down the hall to an A-Fib sleep study area.)

For some lucky patients, normal sinus rhythm (NSR) can be restored just by controlling their sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep.

For some lucky patients, normal sinus rhythm (NSR) can be restored just by controlling their sleep apnea.

Take Action: Sleep Apnea Can be Lethal

Sleep apnea isn’t a minor health problem, and it’s a condition you can do something about. If your bed partner tells you that you have pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep, or that you snore, do something about it! (Not everyone with sleep apnea snores, but snoring may indicate sleep apnea.)

Talk with your doctors about testing for sleep apnea. You may need an in-lab or home sleep test).

Atrial Fibrillation PVI: Can the Need for Multiple Ablations be Forecasted?

Could the necessity for multiple ablation procedures be predicted? According to a research study, the answer is YES!

In a study of patients who had catheter ablation of the Pulmonary Veins (PVs) for paroxysmal (occasional) A-Fib, 8% had to have more than two ablations to be A-Fib free.

The only independent predictor of the need for multiple procedures was the presence of non-PV triggers. According to this research, electrophysiologists (EPs) should check for non-PV triggers such as at the ligament of Marshall.

Illustration of RF ablation at A-Fib.com

Illustration of RF ablation

The lesson to be learned from this study: When having an ablation, make sure your Electrophysiologist (EP) is experienced at tracking down (mapping) and ablating (isolating) non-PV triggers.

For example, I reviewed the an O.R. (Operating Room) report of a patient who, after isolating the PVs, was still in A-Fib. Instead of looking for non-PV triggers, the EP just electrocardioverted the patient back into sinus rhythm. This does sometimes work. But not in this case. The ablation failed.

This is particularly important for EPs doing CryoBalloon ablations.

Graphic: Cryoablation heat withdrawl at A-Fib.com

Illustration: Cryoablation heat withdrawl

Find EPs Experienced at Ablating Non-PV Triggers

When getting a CryoBalloon ablation, you need to find an EP who is willing to do more than just isolate your PVs—someone who will put out the extra effort to find and ablate non-PV triggers such as at the ligament of Marshall.

To do this, your EP may have to replace the CryoBalloon catheter with an RF catheter to ablate these non-PV triggers. This may require mapping and ablation skills not all EPs have.

What to Ask Prospective EPs

To find the right EP for your CryoBalloon ablation ask:

What do you do if I’m still in A-Fib after you do the CryoBalloon ablation?

(You want to hear they’ll search for and ablate non-PV triggers.)

For more about Ablating Non-PV Triggers, see my article: CryoBalloon Ablation Study: 30% of Patients Required RF to Achieve Isolation

Note: This research study was conducted before the widespread use of Contact Force sensing catheters, whose use is another contributor to the reduction of recurrence and need for multiple ablation procedures.

References for this article

Top My 5 Articles: Atrial Fibrillation and Women’s Health

There are important gender differences in the electrical activity of the heart, e.g., women have higher resting heart rates compared to men. Women with atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of stroke, and they are less likely to receive anti-coagulation and ablation procedures compared to men in the U.S.

Learn more about the health concerns for women with Atrial Fibrillation:

  1. Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias
  2. Under-Diagnosed & Under-Treated Women & A-Fib
  3. Women, Anticoagulants, CHA2DS2-VASc and Risk of Bleeding
  4. Doubles Chance of A-Fib: Obesity in Young Women
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Will it Help or Hinder my Atrial Fibrillation

Good News: EPs Less Likely to Have Gender Bias

Research indicates female gender bias tends to disappear when a woman sees an cardiac electrophysiologist (EP), particularly concerning catheter ablation. This suggests that treatment bias may be more at the primary care level, i.e., your GP or general cardiologist.

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In your 80s? Are You Doomed to a Life in A-Fib or Can You Still Have a Catheter Ablation?

If you’re in your 80s, you’re not automatically doomed to a life in A-Fib and on A-Fib drugs. You most likely can still have a catheter ablation. The research by Dr. Pasquale Santangeli is very hopeful and encouraging.

Study of Octogenarians Who Had a Catheter Ablation (PVI)

Dr. Pasquale Santangeli and his colleagues at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute in Austin, TX examined data from 103 octogenarians who had an RF catheter ablation between 2008 and 2011. They compared this older group to younger patients who underwent the same procedure.

 If you’re in your 80s, you’re not automatically doomed to a life in A-Fib and on A-Fib drugs.

• There was no difference in the rate of success between the octogenarians and the younger group (69% vs. 71%).

• The rate of procedure-related complications was also not significantly different between the two groups, even when looking at different types of A-Fib such as paroxysmal and non-paroxysmal A-Fib.

• Octogenarians with paroxysmal A-Fib had more non-pulmonary vein trigger sites, and consequently required longer procedural time to effectively isolate such non-pulmonary vein areas. (Dr. Santangeli suggested a hypothesis that the underlying pathology of A-Fib in older patients might be different from younger patients.)

In practice, octogenarians have been largely excluded from clinical trials of catheter ablation. Current guidelines are also very conservative, because there has been a lack of adequate clinical studies in this area. Dr. Santangeli’s report is a step in the right direction.

When Old Isn’t Necessarily Old

In the real world old isn’t necessarily old. People in their 80s may indeed have ‘excellent functional and health status” which would make them good candidates for a catheter ablation. Most healthy 80-year-olds aren’t so frail that they can’t have a catheter ablation.

You can still have a catheter ablation but you need to find an EP Experienced in Non-PV Triggers.

After all, a catheter ablation is a non-invasive procedure. It isn’t like open heart surgery which is incredibly taxing and physically demanding. You don’t have to be a ‘Johnny Atlas’ muscleman to have a catheter ablation. Most healthy 80-year-olds aren’t so frail that they can’t have a catheter ablation.

In your 80s? Find an EP Experienced in Non-PV Triggers

If you’re in your 80s, you most likely can still have a catheter ablation. But, you need to find the right electrophysiologist (EP).

Make sure you select an EP with a proven track record of finding and isolating non-PV triggers. (Dr. Santangeli’s research found that octogenarians have more non-pulmonary vein trigger sites.) Some EPs can’t or won’t make the extra effort to map and ablate non-PV triggers.

(I’ve read O.R. reports where the patient was still in A-Fib after the EP had ablated their PVs. Instead of trying to map and ablate non-PV triggers, the EP simply electrocardioverted [shocked] the patient back into sinus rhythm. After a short time, the patient went back into A-Fib.)

Questions to Ask a Prospective EP

When interviewing a prospective EP, ask:

 “What do you do if I’m still in A-Fib after you’ve ablated my pulmonary veins?” (You want a reply such as “I use mapping to search for non-PV triggers in other areas of the heart”.)

We are indebted to Dr. Santangeli and his colleagues for showing that octogenarians can have a successful, safe ablation, and shouldn’t be excluded from a catheter ablation simply on the basis of their age.

To learn more: read my related article: FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Is 82 Too Old for a PVA?  

References for this article

Does a Successful Catheter Ablation Have Side Benefits? How About a Failed Ablation?

Are there additional dividends from a successful catheter ablation for A-Fib—beyond being back in normal sinus rhythm (NSR)? Research says, yes!

Additional Benefits of Successful Catheter Ablation

“The benefit of catheter ablation extends beyond improving quality of life…If successful, ablation improves life span,” says, lead author Dr. Hamid Ghanbari, an electrophysiologist at U.of Mich. Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Illustration of RF ablation

His comments are based on a study that examined 10 years of follow-up medical data on over 3,000 adults who received RF catheter for paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation. Researchers found that staying in normal sinus rhythm (NSR) was associated with a 60% reduction in the expected rate of cardiovascular mortality (risk of death from stroke and other cardiovascular events).

In another study (Anselmino), a meta-analysis of 26 studies involved 1,838 A-Fib patients who had undergone a catheter ablation. Post-ablation follow-up averaged 23 months. Examining the patient follow-up data, researchers found a significant 13% improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction (EF), i.e., the heart’s blood pumping efficiency.

In addition, there was a significant reduction in the number of patients who formerly had an ejection fraction of less than 35% (more patients improved their EF ratio out of the life-threatening range). Blood pressure levels were also improved.

Summary of Research Findings: These studies reveal some of the real benefits to patients after a successful catheter ablation that go beyond being in normal sinus rhythm (NSR):

• improved quality of life
• significantly lower risk of cardiac-related mortality
• better heart pumping efficiency for more patients (ejection fraction, EF)
• improved blood pressure levels

You may ask, do these side-benefits depend on the catheter ablation eliminating the patient’s A-Fib?

Ever Wonder If There Are Benefits from a Failed Ablation?

Catheter ablation from Cleveland Clinic

VIDEO: Catheter ablation, Cleveland Clinic

Researchers have studied the follow-up data of failed ablations and found a few ‘side’ benefits.

A clinical trial (Pokushalov) showed that, when ablation fails to eliminate paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, a second try is more successful in returning the patient to sinus rhythm than medication alone; it also slows the progression from paroxysmal A-Fib to persistent A-Fib.

In addition, some patients found their A-Fib symptoms were less intense or shorter in duration. (Might be attributed to an improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction.)

Other patients found they could take certain medications that prior to their ablation had been ineffective.

Summary of Research Findings: These studies reveal some of the real benefits to patients even if their catheter ablation doesn’t return them to normal sinus rhythm:

• second ablation is more successful than medication alone
• second ablation slows progression from paroxysmal to persistent A-Fib
• symptoms were shorter or less intense
• certain medications worked that didn’t work before

A catheter ablation can profoundly change one’s life, even if you need a 2nd ablation.

Conclusion

A catheter ablation can profoundly change one’s life, even if you need a 2nd ablation. 

So, either way, a catheter ablation offers benefits to Atrial Fibrillation patients. Even if you need a second ablation (or a third), know that you may still reap substantial benefits from the previous “failed” ablation.

For more about the benefits of ablation, see Live Longer―Have a Catheter Ablation!

References for this article

Increased Dementia Risk Caused by A-Fib: 20 Year Study Findings

Dementia risk is “strongly associated” with younger patients who develop Atrial Fibrillation. That’s the finding of a 20-year study among 6,196 people without established A-Fib.

Rotterdam Study of Cardiovascular Disease

In a 20-year observational study of participants in the long-term Rotterdam Study, researchers tracked 6,514 dementia-free people. Researchers were monitoring participants for dementia and Atrial Fibrillation. At the start of the study (baseline), 318 participants (4.9%) already had A-Fib. 

“The Rotterdam Study” is a long-term study started in 1990 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Cardiovascular disease is just one of several targeted diseases.

Results: A-Fib and Dementia

During the course of the study, among 6,196 people without established A-Fib: 11.7% developed A-Fib
and 15.0% developed incident dementia. Other findings:

• Development of A-Fib was associated with an increased risk of dementia in younger people (<67 years old)

• Dementia risk was strongly associated with younger people (<67 years old) who developed A-Fib

• Dementia risk was not strongly associated in the elder participants who developed A-Fib.

The Rotterdam researchers didn’t state explicitly that A-Fib “causes” dementia. Instead they concluded that A-Fib was “strongly associated” with dementia. Because there may be other factors at play, that’s as far as researchers can go (though they did use regression models to adjust for age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors).

 The younger you are when you develop A-Fib, the more important it is to seek your A-Fib cure to reduce the associated risk of developing dementia.

A-Fib Leads to or Causes Dementia

As patients we have to conclude that, all things being equal, A-Fib leads to and/or causes Dementia. This makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it?

In A-Fib we lose 15%-30% of our heart’s ability to pump blood to our brain, and to the rest of our body. Research confirms that older adults with dementia had significantly reduced blood flow into the brain compared with older adults with normal brain function or young adults.

What Patients Need To Know

The bottom line, the younger you are when you develop A-Fib and/or the longer you have A-Fib, the greater your risk of developing dementia. Seek your A-Fib cure sooner rather than later.

To decrease your increased risk of dementia, your goal should be to get your A-Fib fixed and get your heart beating normally again. We can’t say it enough:

Do not settle for a lifetime on meds. Seek your A-Fib cure.

References for this article

A-Fib Recurrence Post Ablation: Should you Have a Second Ablation? or Anti-Arrhythmic Drug Therapy?

Evgeny Pokushalov, MD, PhD

E. Pokushalov, MD, PhD

It’s disappointing when your heart doesn’t return to normal sinus rhythm (NSR) after your catheter ablation. What’s your next step, your follow-up treatment?

In his study, researcher Evgeny Pokushalov asked several related questions:

“If A-Fib recurs after a patient’s initial catheter ablation procedure, which is the better follow-up treatment? A second catheter ablation or taking antiarrhythmic meds?”

The Three-Year Study

In this study, 154 paroxysmal A-Fib patients who had a failed ablation were divided into two randomized groups.

A catheter ablation can profoundly change one’s life. And, even if you need a second ablation one.

The first group had a second ablation, the other group was put on antiarrhythmic drug therapy (AADs). The two groups were monitored by an implantable loop recorder, followed for three years, then compared.

Study Results

After three years, researchers found A-Fib present in 5.6% of the re-ablation group. In the antiarrhythmic drug group, 18.8% had A-Fib.

A second significant finding was the rate of paroxysmal A-Fib progressing to ‘persistent A-Fib’.  The re-ablation group had a progression rate of 4%, while the progress to “permanent A-Fib’ was 23% in the drug therapy group.

Expected and Unexpected Findings

I had expected (and it was confirmed) that the group getting a second ablation would have better results than the group on antiarrhythmic drug (AAD) therapy.

…progress to permanent A-Fib was 23% in the drug therapy group.

Many studies have documented this when patients undergo their first ablations vs AAD therapy.

What I didn’t expect was the rate of progression to persistent A-Fib in the second group. Nearly one-fourth (23%) of patients taking antiarrhythmic drugs progressed to persistent A-Fib after a failed ablation!

The Message is Clear 

To reduce your risk of progressing to persistent A-Fib, if you have a failed ablation, you are best served getting a second ablation rather than relying on antiarrhythmic drugs.

Are there benefits from a catheter ablation even when the patient’s A-Fib has not been eliminated? Yes! To learn more, see: Are There Benefits from a Failed Ablation? Yes!

References for this article

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