Researchers find more comfortable way to treat AF

18th May 2017

People who intermittently have the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation (AF) may soon be able to benefit from a less painful treatment.

The standard treatment, called a cardioversion, involves a high energy shock to the heart, designed to return it to having  a normal rhythm.

But Dr Fu Siong Ng, from Imperial College, London, told the annual Heart Rhythm Society scientific sessions in America that research he is involved in shows that cardioversion can still work using a series of very low energy pulses.

He said that normal rhythm was restored using low-energy multistage electrotherapy (MSE) in nine of 16 consecutive AF patients. MSE is thought to work by upsetting the drivers of atrial fibrillation, reducing its foothold, and stopping irregular heart wave tendencies.

Dr Ng said: "You deliver a lot less energy over a longer time, which is a totally different mechanism of stopping fibrillation.”

The researchers said that MSE had been shown to work in dogs and its safety and feasibility had previously been shown in 20 people in an upublished study .

In the new study, the patients had a mean age of 61 years and just over three quarters were men. They had been diagnosed with AF for an average of four years.