AHA Logo Patients with an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia may be treated by a medical procedure, known as catheter ablation. According to a recent study, patients under the age of 45 years who are subjected to catheter ablation have fewer major complications and better improvement than older patients. In this procedure a heat pulse is apparently delivered to the heart through thin tubes.

The delivered heart pulse is assumed to destroy abnormal heart tissue that causes the irregular heartbeat. This procedure was put to use in the current study for treating atrial fibrillation (AF), a common arrhythmia. One year after catheter ablation, younger patients were less likely to require medication than older ones. So catheter ablation may be an accurate treatment for younger adults. According to the guidelines laid down by American Heart Association, ablation is a second-line treatment that can be utilized only if medication does not display appropriate results.

The study was triggered on 1,548 patients undergoing catheter ablation within the University of Pennsylvania Health System between November 2000 and September 2008 by lead author Peter Leong-Sit, M.D.. The study subjects were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation that had not responded to medication. Average age of the participants was 56 years, and 70 percent were men. A year after catheter ablation, 87 percent of patients who were younger than 45 years old appeared to have infrequent or no AF. On the other hand, absence of AF was reported by 88 percent of patients 45-54 years old and 55-64 years old. Similar results were also registered by 82 percent of patients 65 years or older. Older patients seemingly suffered from major complications including stroke. In fact 2 to 3 percent of patients in the older age groups suffered serious complications during or after catheter ablation. These complications were not displayed by younger patients.

In the follow-up, authors scrutinized the patients irregular heartbeat episodes with a transtelephonic monitor. Patients employed this monitor to transmit a detailed chart of heartbeat twice a day at 6 to 12 weeks follow-up, at 6 months, and at 1 year. Also additional transmissions were made by patients whenever they had any AF symptoms at any time during follow-up and/or when antiarrhythmic drugs were discontinued. At the time of the research, experts did not focus much on risks and benefits of therapies like catheter ablation in young patients.

The study was published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, an American Heart Association journal.