Beaumont researchers studying treatments for irregular heartbeat

Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak is one of just 20 centers nationwide enrolling volunteers in a research clinical trial to compare a new, catheter-based treatment to standard drug therapy when treating an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation.

During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two small upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively, according to the Web site of the American Heart Association. This leads to an erratic rhythm pattern with symptoms of palpitations. Also, blood isn't pumped through the chambers, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the chambers leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. One recent study estimates that there are more than 5 million people with this disorder in the United States and projects that the number of affected people will increase to nearly 16 million by the year 2050.

In the Beaumont study testing the experimental CardioFocus Endoscopic Ablation System, a single therapeutic procedure will be evaluated for its safety and effectiveness in controlling the recurrence of atrial fibrillation for one year following treatment. For more information on the CardioFocus Endoscopic Ablation System visit http://www.cardiofocus.com/.

The cardiac catheter to be used in this study combines the capacity to see the heart's anatomy during the procedure, in full color and in real time, with the ability to target and project laser energy to heat and destroy small areas of the heart muscle. This is designed to stop the electrical signals that cause the atrial fibrillation.

"We know that the number of patients with atrial fibrillation continues to increase every year and we are continually looking for new treatment options," says David E. Haines, M.D., chief of Cardiovascular Medicine and director of the Heart Rhythm Center. Dr. Haines is Beaumont's principal investigator for the study.

Candidates for this study must be 18-65 years old and be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Eligible candidates must also have failed drug therapy and have at least three symptomatic episodes of atrial fibrillation in the three months prior to enrollment. There are other exclusion criteria.

Beaumont, Royal Oak is Michigan's, and one of the nation's, most experienced providers of heart care, ranking 12th on the 2007 U.S. News and World Report list of top hospitals for heart care and heart surgery. The Beaumont Heart Center is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the prevention diagnosis and treatment of heart problems. It includes the Heart Rhythm Center and Ministrelli Women's Heart Center, Michigan's first center devoted exclusively to the prevention, diagnosis and research of heart disease in women.