Atrial Fibrillation: Treatable HCM Complication

A recent paper by doctors at Tufts University’s HCM Center found that transient episodes of atrial fibrillation (AF) are treatable and do not often progress to permanent AF.

This study found that AF was not a frequent cause of death by heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.  However, the researchers identified AF as an important cause of stroke in HCM patients.  Therefore, they recommend a low threshold for starting HCM patients on anti-coagulants following an initial AF episode.

Researchers in this study analyzed statistics from 1558 HCM patients, 20% of whom experienced AF.  74% experienced only sporadic episodes, while 26% went on to develop permanent AF.

At the time of publication, 91% of the 277 of the patients included in the sample were still alive and between the ages 49 and 75 years old.

 

 

Could Your Fitbit Detect AFib?

The same Fitbit you wear to count your steps may soon have an additional purpose:  it could detect atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat which could cause a stroke if not properly treated.  Yet, it often goes unnoticed by a person experiencing it.

According to this story in Time, Fitbit is  developing software which would enable its existing trackers to detect afib, and thus allow time for appropriate action before it is too late.

This technology could be of great benefit to heart patients.  Not only does the Fitbit encourage you to exercise, it might just save your life!

Aspirin May Cause More Harm than Good in Afib

According to new research presented at last week’s meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society, aspirin is not effective in preventing strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation, and in some instances may actually do more harm than good.

Note that previous studies have demonstrated that aspirin is not effective in preventing strokes from Afib.

In fact, the study, led by Dr. Jared Bunch from Intermountain Healthcare system, Salt Lake City, UT, found that patients who were prescribed aspirin following catheter ablation procedures to treat atrial fibrillation were significantly more likely to suffer gastrointestinal or genitourinary bleeding than those who took other anticoagulants like warfarin, or those who received no treatment at all.

For more, see these articles from  Medical News Today  and Science Times (with link to video).

 

Can Your Apple Watch Spot Afib?

According to preliminary data presented this week at the Heart Rhythm Society’s annual meeting, the Apple watch. together with an app called Cardiogram, spots atrial fibrillation with 97% accuracy. 

Start-up tech company Cardiogram paired up with electrophysiologists at the University of California, San Francisco to try out the technology on patients awaiting cardioversion for atrial fibrillation.  51 patients at UCSF agreed to wear Apple Watches during their cardioversion procedures.

Heart rate samples were obtained before the procedure, when the patient was in atrial fibrillation, and again afterward when heart rhythm had been restored to normal. The researchers found that the Apple Watches were able to detect afib 97% of the time.

The Cardiogram and UCSF teams hope to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal while Cardiogram hopes it can make this information useful to consumers.  One possibility would be to have the watch send a notification to the wearer that s/he appears to be in afib should contact her/his care provider immediately.

If you are interested in participating in this research, click here.

Read more about it at TechCrunch, BuzzFeedApple Insider and CNET,

Catheter ablation useful for AFib in HCM

A recent article published in Heart looked at the safety and effectiveness of catheter ablation for the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation in patients with HCM by performing a systematic review of prior publications on the subject.

The researchers concluded that even though the success rate for HCM patients was approximately half that of patients who suffered from AFib but did not have HCM, catheter ablation is still an effective treatment for HCM patients;  especially for those HCM patients who suffer from paroxysmal AFib and who have smaller atria.

Better Screening and Treatment Necessary for Atrial Fibrillation

 

An August 20, 2016 article in The Lancet points out that many physicians do not effectively screen for or properly treat Atrial Fibrillation. Furthermore, aspirin, which is often given as a treatment for A-fib, is insufficient to prevent stroke.

If A-Fib is detected, treatment with anti-coagulants is essential.

Unsuspected AFib Detected in HCM Patients

A recent retrospective study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology found that atrial fibrillation (AF) occurred for the first time in 16 of 30 patients (53%) of patients with implantable devices being followed at the center conducting the study.

Of the patients experiencing AF for the first time, 14 of 16 (88%) of the patients were not aware of having experienced any clinical symptoms.  As patients age, AF appears to be a common consequence of HCM.  Patients may be caught unaware and unprepared, so monitoring is especially important.

Aspirin Not Best to Treat A-fib

 

According to a recent study published June 20 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, more than 1/3 of patients in atrial fibrillation are not receiving sufficient anti-coagulation.   Many of these patients are receiving only aspirin instead of a more effective blood thinner like warfarin, or one of the newer anti-coagulant drugs like Pradaxa or  Xarelto.

 

 

 

HCM GENOTYPE DOESN’T INFLUENCE ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

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In the April edition of the American Journal of Cardiology, Italian HCM experts published their findings which indicate that  an individual patient’s HCM causing gene does not influence chances of developing atrial fibrillation and shouldn’t influence the management strategies for the condition.