Ablation procedure favorable option as initial treatment of heart rhythm disorder, study finds

Cryoballoon ablation, a procedure in which a liquid nitrogen-filled balloon is inserted to freeze heart tissue responsible for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, is more successful as an initial treatment to the disorder than conventional medications, according to a study published Nov. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found the ablation procedure was more effective as an initial treatment to paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or intermittent episodes of irregular heart beat, compared to standard-of-care drug therapy. The study included 203 participants ages 18 to 80 with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation who hadn't received previous treatment. Of this group, 104 underwent the ablation procedure and 99 received drug therapy. 

After 12 months, nearly 75 percent of patients who underwent the procedure were free from atrial fibrillation, compared to 45 percent of the medication group. 

"Earlier intervention with ablation may keep patients free from atrial fibrillation longer and prevent the disease from progressing into more persistent atrial fibrillation," said Oussama Wazni, MD, study author and cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic.

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