Treating an Abnormal Heartbeat


Treating an Abnormal Heartbeat – This is the VOA Special English Health Report, from A condition called atrial fibrillation produces an abnormal heartbeat. People feel their heart race and they lose their breath. It may last a few seconds, but it can get worse and worse with age, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Doctors generally treat atrial fibrillation with drugs. But a new study shows that another treatment may have better results for patients who were not helped by drug therapy. The treatment is called catheter ablation. Doctors place a long, thin tube called a catheter into the heart. Then they use radio frequency energy to heat the tissue around the catheter. The heat burns off a small amount of heart muscle. The goal is to block abnormal electrical activity in the heart. Researchers studied more than one hundred fifty patients who had failed to respond to at least one drug in the past. In the study, about one hundred of them had catheter ablation. The others were treated with more drugs. There was a nine-month follow-up period to compare the effectiveness. David Wilber at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois was the lead author of the study. He says catheter ablation worked in sixty to seventy percent of the patients. By comparison, abnormal heartbeats returned in eighty to ninety percent of those treated with drugs. But Doctor Wilber says catheter ablation is not meant to be the first treatment choice for atrial fibrillation. He suggests it only when drug


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