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New AHRQ Study Finds Mixed Evidence on Use of Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation for Treating Atrial Fibrillation
Date:7/6/2009

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A procedure that sends targeted energy into the heart through a catheter can be used to treat a common type of irregular heartbeat, but little is known about the treatment's long-term benefits and the best methods and circumstances for applying it, according to a new report funded by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The report examines the use of a procedure called radiofrequency catheter ablation to treat a type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. The new comparative effectiveness report found that the procedure has been shown to provide benefits in maintaining normal heart rhythm over short periods of time (up to 1 year) but found little evidence indicating whether the procedure reduces the chance that patients will experience atrial fibrillation over the long term.

The report, which compared radiofrequency catheter ablation to medication-based therapy, also found that the effect of the procedure on stroke, a major risk for patients with atrial fibrillation, is unknown. Radiofrequency catheter ablation - a procedure in which a long, thin, flexible tube is put through a blood vessel into the heart - often is used when medications do not work. In this procedure, energy pulses are delivered through the catheter to the heart, destroying small areas of heart tissue where abnormal electrical signals may cause an arrhythmia to start.

Different techniques and instruments can be used for the procedure. While there is no strong evidence to suggest that one particular technique is best for any given patient, there is general consensus concerning a basic approach to ablation procedures for atrial fibrillation. In addition, there is little evidence indicating the procedure's effectiveness when used as a first-line therapy instead of medication.

"Radiofrequency holds promise for treating atrial fibrillation, but it is cl
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SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
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