“Experimental Challenging” for Patients with Irregular Heart Rate
Researchers from the University of Washington in St. Louis offered patients who suffer from various conductivity disorders, an experimental method of treatment. It is based on directing the patient to a sick heart with short bursts of radiation, thereby destroying cells that cause electrical instability.
Results in the first five patients were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the researchers, the experiment was carried out successfully, which in turn gives hope to many patients who today have no alternative other than heart transplantation.
"This is a change in the rules of the game," said Dr. Melvin Scheinman, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and former president of the Heart Rhythm Society. "There is no doubt that this case will continue."
Treatment takes several weeks to get the full effect, so it can not be used for patients with heart failure who need immediate help. And this method should be studied by larger groups of patients for a longer time, which has already begun.
To the experiment, patients were admitted who had not previously been helped either by drug treatment, by RFA, or by defibrillators. Three months before they tried experimental therapy with radiation outbreaks, five such patients had a total of more than 6,500 tachycardia attacks. It took a month for their hearts to recover from the treatment, but a year later, the patients combined had only four episodes of tachycardia, and two did not.
The new method combines two technologies. One of them is the standard radiation, which is used in some medical centers for the treatment of cancer patients. To do this, a highly focused and intense radioactive beam is used, which destroys the tumors.
Dr. Clifford G. Robinson, a radio-oncologist at the university and a senior experimenter, was initially wary of Dr. Kukulich's proposal, which referred to the use of focused radiation to burn scar tissue in a diseased heart.
Oncologists go to great risks to avoid heart attacks when they treat cancer, because radiation can damage valves, arteries and other cardiac tissue by radiation. The most difficult moment is to hit the moving heart with a radioactive beam, which must be precisely aimed. But the patients, ready for the experiment, were so sick that the researchers considered it necessary to take risks. In this case, the size of the scars on the hearts of patients varied from the size of the cherry to the walnut.
According to the patients themselves, radiotherapy is easier in comparison with catheter ablation. At the same time, the worst moment is "wrapping with a shrink film" to immobilize from the feet and to the armpits with the hands held on the head, so as not to flinch. All this was necessary in order that doctors could accurately "shoot" into a sick heart.
Soon after radiation therapy, in one of the patients, ventricular tachycardia disappeared. "It definitely changed my life," said Mr. Wright, who had undergone radiation therapy. "Within a year and a half there have been positive changes." The experiment also changed the lives of Dr. Kukulich and Dr. Robinson. Currently, they have treated 14 more patients in a new clinical trial. Therefore, we can assume that patients with arrhythmia who did not benefit from radiofrequency ablation will soon be offered alternative treatment.