J&J study finds ablation procedures lessen heart failure risk in afib patients

A look back at more than 18,400 patients with atrial fibrillation found that those who underwent a cardiac ablation procedure had less than half the risk of going on to develop heart failure compared to those who only received prescription drugs to treat an irregular heartbeat. 

The retrospective study was conducted by Johnson & Johnson MedTech’s Biosense Webster division, a major manufacturer of heart ablation catheters and equipment. Researchers examined eight years of real-world health claims data collected from two groups of patients whose afib continued after previously taking antiarrhythmic drugs. 

They discovered that the group of patients who received second-line catheter ablation showed a 57% lower risk of developing heart failure in the years that followed. 

The effects were similar across subgroups based on the patients’ race, ethnicity and sex, and the two cohorts were matched on sociodemographic status and other clinical variables. People with afib have a higher risk of developing heart failure, as the arrhythmia makes it harder for the heart to pump blood out to the rest of the body efficiently.

“The results from this study underscore the positive, life-changing impact catheter ablation can have for people with afib,” Biosense Webster President Jasmina Brooks said in a statement.

The company said that while catheter ablation has been shown to be safe and effective for treating afib, currently less than 5% of the people eligible for the procedure actually receive it. The study’s results were published in the journal Heart Rhythm O2.

J&J estimates that afib affects more than 6 million people in the U.S., with about 25% of adults over age 40 at risk for developing the condition.