A New Approach for Treating AFib

A new treatment approach may allow patients to manage AFib more effectively. 

The approach, called “cryoballoon ablation,” offers yet another option for treating atrial fibrillation, which has been traditionally treated by anticoagulants. And the new procedure is garnering a lot of positive attention. 

A New Approach 

During the procedure, doctors use a catheter to reach the upper left chamber of the heart, where they then “freeze” cells that are misfiring and causing irregular heartbeat. In clinical testing, 75% of patients who received cryoballoon ablation treatment were free from AFib one year post-treatment, as compared to 45% of patients who used traditional medications.  

While blood thinners still may be the best course of care for some patients, cryoballoon ablation surgery could be particularly good for AFib patients who are not diligent about taking their twice-daily oral blood thinners. By opting for surgery, patients on first-generation anticoagulants can also eliminate the need for routine labs, avoiding certain foods and remaining vigilant for uncontrolled bleeding. 

Regardless of approach, addressing AFib is important for decreasing patients’ likelihood of experiencing other cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke. Having uncontrolled AFib increases a person’s risk of stroke by 500%.  

Increasing AFib Awareness 

But, like other conditions, treatment is possible only once a diagnosis has been made, so knowing the risk factors and signs of AFib are important.  

Risk of AFib increases with age; it’s uncommon in people younger than 50. It affects men more than women and is more common in people who have heart disease. People who are born with heart defects or who have had a heart attack should pay special attention to signs of AFib.  

It can feel like a fluttering or a sporadically thumping heartbeat. It can also cause fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains. AFib leads to more than 450,000 hospitalizations annually and is a contributing factor in nearly 160,000 deaths, so people experiencing these symptoms shouldn’t ignore them.  

Increasing awareness about AFib, its risk factors and signs this September, during National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, has the potential to save thousands of lives. Knowing about the condition and recognizing the symptoms are important first steps in securing a diagnosis and beginning treatment – whether that’s innovative surgery or tried-and-true blood thinners.  


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