"It would be nice to see a larger number of patients studied for longer periods," Cannon said.
The new analysis shows that statin therapy "is very encouraging as a potential treatment for preventing atrial fibrillation, but larger studies are needed before it is used widely," he said.
Cannon noted that the largest study included in the report did not see a significant difference in the incidence of atrial fibrillation, "but that was just for a short period of time, four months."
As for the mechanism by which statins might reduce atrial fibrillation, it probably has nothing to do with their cholesterol-lowering ability, Cannon said. "We believe that statins reduce inflammation," he said. "That would be a mechanism to reduce incidence of atrial fibrillation, which could be related to inflammation around the heart."
The French report provides a reminder to cardiologists about the value of continuing statin therapy for people who undergo bypass surgery because of blocked coronary arteries, Cannon added.
"In bypass surgery, that can be overlooked because the doctor is focusing on short-term goals," he said. "This study suggests that it is reasonable to keep patients on statins during their hospital stay. It might have some benefits."
In the same issue of the journal, experts set forth a new set of performance measures developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, in collaboration with the Heart Rhythm Society, to monitor care delivered to people with the condition.
The new guidelines include the use of a point system to track those patients at highest stroke risk, prescribing blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) to cut the odds of stroke, and monitoring warfarin'
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