Study suggests ablation is safe and may be more effective than drug therapy for minority patients with atrial fibrillation

A photo of a heart beating is shown against a blue medical backdrop.

New research suggests that minority patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, may experience fewer adverse events, like hospitalization or death, after having a corrective heart rhythm procedure compared to using drug therapy. Doctors may recommend catheter ablation, a procedure that uses a small tube to make tiny scars in the heart to correct for a faster heartbeat, as a treatment strategy for some patients. Since minority patients have been underrepresented in clinical research studies for atrial fibrillation, physicians further analyzed data from the Catheter Ablation vs. Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation Trial (CABANA), which included data from 2,204 international participants, to see if recommending ablation or providing drug therapy would make a difference in clinical outcomes among patients living in North America who identified as a racial or ethnic minority.  

Among 127 minority participants out of 1,280 in the North American arm of the trial, those who had ablation were less likely to experience severe outcomes, such as death, hospitalization, extreme bleeding, or stroke, over a four-year period. However, these benefits did not extend to non-minority patients in CABANA. The researchers believe these differences may be due to minority patients experiencing more adverse events with drug therapy. However, they conclude more research is necessary to confirm and validate these findings. 

The research, partially funded by the NHLBI, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology