May 14, 2009

Catheter ablation better than a-fib drugs

U.S. scientists say they've found catheter ablation is much more efficient than drugs in treating atrial fibrillation -- a type of abnormal heart rhythm.

Research leader Dr. David Wilber, director of Loyola University's Cardiovascular Institute, said he and his colleagues studied catheter ablation -- using a catheter to heat the heart -- in 167 patients at 19 U.S. medical centers.

Wilber said one year after undergoing catheter ablation, 63 percent of the patients with atrial fibrillation were free of any recurrent atrial arrhythmias or symptoms. By comparison, only 17 percent of patients treated with drugs were arrhythmia-free. Wilber said the results were so convincing the trial was halted early.

The study was funded by Biosense Webster Inc., which makes the ThermoCool catheter used in the trial. Wilber is a consultant to the company.

Wilber presented the findings Thursday in Boston during the Heart Rhythm Society's 30th Annual scientific sessions.