A new study demonstrates that aspirin may not be an effective treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF), as previously thought. In fact, the risks of utilizing aspirin may outweigh the benefits for patients who had undergone a catheter ablation.
Atrial fibrillation or A-fib, an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by irregular and rapid beating, is very common and can lead to serious cardiovascular events if left untreated. An estimated 2.7 million people living in the United States are affected by A-fib and most of those are treated with anticoagulants, blood thinners.
It is not uncommon for people with A-fib to undergo a cardiac catheter ablation, an invasive procedure that utilizes radiofrequency energy to destroy a specific area of the heart tissue to prevent faulty electrical pathways from moving through the heart.
Cardiac catheter ablation risks include blood vessel damage and bleeding. However, the risk of stroke is lower for patients with A-fib, who have undergone the procedure than those who did not.
Aspirin is the preferred treatment for patients with A-fib, but only if they have had an ablation and have a low risk for stroke. The drug can further reduce the risk of stroke.
In the new study, researchers analyzed the effect of long-term aspirin use on AF patients, who have undergone an ablation.
Dr. Jared Bunch, lead author, said, “What was unknown was if aspirin was a safe and effective stroke prevention treatment after an ablation in lower-risk AF patients. Traditionally, lower-risk AF patients have been treated with aspirin without significant supportive data.”
According to a report by the American College of Cardiologists, more than 1 in 3 AF patients with an “intermediate-to-high” risk of stroke are prescribed aspirin as an alternative to blood thinners, even though the medical guidelines advise the use of anticoagulants.
The study was presented at Heart Rhythm 2017 in Chicago, Illinois on May 10, 2017.