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Atrial fibrillation patients do better with surgical procedure than drugs as initial treatment: study

It seems counterintuitive: initially treating patients suffering from an irregular heart rhythm with a surgical procedure in hospital rather than simply prescribing them with drugs.   

But new research led by a St. Paul’s Hospital cardiologist has found that the minimally invasive procedure provides longer-lasting benefits than drugs as the first course of treatment for this common heart condition. 

The study, published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, recruited 303 highly symptomatic, but untreated, patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). This life-disrupting, chronic and progressive disease can increase the risk of a stroke or heart failure if the abnormal heart rhythm is not controlled.

“People in the study were severely affected by the disorder,” says Dr. Jason Andrade, principal investigator in the study and a cardiac electrophysiologist at St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital. “While everyone experiences AF differently, some people can be severely affected or even incapacitated during an episode. Objective measures show it can be as intrusive to one’s quality of life as being on kidney dialysis.”

Read the full story in the Daily Scan