Cardiac Ablation Reduces Risk Of Stroke And Alzheimer's Disease
New findings by researchers from the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, reveal that a treatment of the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting more than two million Americans, significantly reduces the risk of stroke, mortality, Alzheimer's disease, and other forms of dementia.
Three to five percent of people over 65 have atrial fibrillation. That common heart rhythm disorder occurs when the atria (the two upper chambers of the heart) are not contracting in unison. It is characterized by a fluttering, which can be heard through a stethoscope, and possibly, be felt in the pulse, but an EKG would have to confirm it.
Atrial fibrillation may prevent blood from being pumped completely out of the atria, which may cause the blood to pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. This is the most feared result of atrial fibrillation.
To prevent this from happening, the most common treatment for atrial fibrillation is cardiac ablation, which is kind of like removing rust from a pipe. Generally a non-invasive procedure, cardiac ablation involves inserting catheters through narrow entry points in the groin or neck and directing the catheters to the heart by images obtained from a fluoroscope. Once in the right location, the catheter's electrodes send back a variety of electrical measurements to the cardiac arrhythmia specialist.
The fluoroscope pinpoints where the arrhythmia is occurring and the specialist will then use the electrodes to destroy tissue which is causing the arrhythmia. The specialist generally uses radiofrequency energy, thereby either cauterizing the tissue to burn it, or cryoablation to freeze the tissue.
According to the studies reported today, patients with atrial fibrillation treated with catheter ablation are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, and have a significantly reduced risk of stroke and death compared to atrial fibrillation patients who are not treated with ablation.