New study looks at the best option for treating Atrial fibrillation: Medication or ablation?

A-fib is the most common type of heart arrhythmia

February is heart month, and all month, we’ll be bringing you stories on different aspects of heart health. Tonight (Feb. 7), we’re focusing on new research involving a condition called Atrial Fibrillation Or A-Fib for short.

There is new research involving a condition called Atrial Fibrillation (a-fib), and researchers are looking into the best ways to treat it.

A-fib is the most common type of heart arrhythmia and it causes nearly half a million hospitalizations each year. When someone has a-fib, the upper chambers of the heart are beating irregularly and blood isn’t flowing as it normally should.

A heart in a-fib is uncoordinated, causing it to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. It can lead to blood clots, stroke, and in some cases heart failure.

Cleveland Clinic Doctor Oussama Wazni says it’s important to see your doctor if it feels like your heart flip flops or skips a beat.

Traditionally, medication is the first treatment used to manage intermittent a-fib. If medication doesn’t work, doctors will try a procedure called an ablation.

Wazni led a clinical trial, which found ablation is safe and more effective than the initial treatment. Researchers looked at more than 200 patients at 24 hospitals.

Patients received a cryoballoon ablation or the standard medication. After a year, 75% of people who had the ablation were still free from a-fib. Only 45% of people who took medication were still a-fib-free.

Wazni said using ablation as the first treatment could keep a-fib away longer, and prevent it from getting worse.

It was an FDA-regulated study, so it could have an impact on how doctors treat a-fib in the future.

What are the warning signs that someone may have a-fib?

The first warning sign would be an irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations, so feeling like your heart is beating too rapidly or like it’s fluttering.

Other red flags would be lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness of breath, or chest pain. About one in five cases are associated with high blood pressure.

Click here to view complete Heart Month coverage.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.