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Nov 09, 2015

Botox Prevents Abnormal Heart Rhythm After Open Heart Surgery

Botox injections help prevent surgery complications for atrial fibrillation patients.

Botox does more than hide wrinkles, based on research that used Botox injections to prevent an abnormal heart rhythm in patients undergoing heart surgery.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, this study tested the use of Botox to prevent an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AFib, is a common complication of heart surgery that can increase risk for stroke and even death. Initial studies with animals suggest that Botox, a neurotoxin commonly used for cosmetic purposes, may help suppress abnormal heart rhythms in patients with AFib. However, its safety and efficacy has yet to be confirmed in larger human studies.

To learn more, researchers conducted a small clinical trial with 60 patients undergoing heart surgery at two Russian hospitals. Participants had AFib and were undergoing coronary artery bypass graft, also known as open heart surgery. During surgery, doctors administered injections to areas of fat around the heart. Half of patients received active injections of Botox (xeomin) while the other half received a saline solution with no active ingredients.

After following patients one year after surgery, researchers found that Botox injections significantly reduced both short and long-term risk of AFib. One month after surgery, only 7% of patients receiving Botox injections experienced AFib compared to 30% in the placebo group. Between one month and one year after surgery, none of the patients in the Botox group had episodes of AFib, compared to 27% of the control group. Perhaps most importantly, Botox was not associated with increased risk of complications in this study.

Experts are encouraged by study findings. Not only does it appear that Botox is effective, it’s safe for preventing AFib in patients undergoing heart surgery. However, larger and more long-term studies are needed to confirm both safety and efficacy before Botox will be used in clinical practice.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is atrial fibrillation?

  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm caused by abnormal, chaotic electrical impulses in the heart’s upper chambers, the atria. These electrical impulses, which interfere with the heart’s natural pacemaker, fire so rapidly the atria cannot beat with a regular rhythm or squeeze out blood effectively. Instead, they merely quiver while the ventricles, the heart’s lower chambers, beat rapidly.
  • What is coronary artery bypass grafting?
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a surgical procedure used to treat coronary artery disease, or the build-up of plaque in the heart’s arteries. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein is connected to a blocked artery in the heart to divert blood and improve blood flow.

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