Practice listening to medical English news VOA 106

A condition called atrial fibrillation produces an abnormal heartbeat. People feel their heart race and they lose their breath. It may last a few seconds, but it can get worse and worse with age, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Doctors generally treat atrial fibrillation with drugs.

But a new study shows that another treatment may have better results for patients who were not helped by drug therapy. The treatment is called catheter ablation. Doctors place a long, thin tube called a catheter into the heart. Then they use radio frequency energy to heat the tissue around the catheter. The heat burns off a small amount of heart muscle. The goal is to block abnormal electrical activity in the heart.

Researchers studied more than one hundred fifty patients who had failed to respond to at least one drug in the past. In the study, about one hundred of them had catheter ablation. The others were treated with more drugs. There was a nine-month follow-up period to compare the effectiveness. David Wilber at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois was the lead author of the study. He says catheter ablation worked in sixty to seventy percent of the patients.By comparison, abnormal heartbeats returned in eighty to ninety percent of those treated with drugs.But Doctor Wilber says catheter ablation is not meant to be the first treatment choice for atrial fibrillation. He suggests it only when drug therapy fails to work.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.Doctors can also use catheters to open blocked arteries that supply blood to the heart. That happened in February with Bill Clinton.The former president had a procedure called an angioplasty. Doctors used a catheter and placed two mesh tubes, called stents, into a blocked artery to help keep it open. Bill Clinton was taken to a New York hospital on February eleventh and released the next day. His heart doctor, Alan Schwartz, said the former president had been feeling pressure in his chest for several days. The American College of Cardiology says one in five patients who receive angioplasty has already had heart bypass surgery. That includes Bill Clinton. He had a major operation because of blockages in two thousand four. Doctors say it is common for heart patients to need new stents over time.And thats the VOA Special English Health Report.

Words in This Story

atrial fibrillation – n. (abbreviation AF) a problem in which the heart beats faster than normal and in a way that is not regular, resulting in the atria (= the top spaces) of the heart not emptying properly

abnormal – adj. different from what is usual or average, especially in a way that is bad

therapy – n. a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger, etc., especially after an illness

ablation – n. the loss of ice or snow from a glacier or iceberg, or the loss of rock or similar material, caused by a process such as melting or erosion

effectiveness – n. the degree to which something is effective

angioplasty – n. a medical operation to remove something blocking an artery (= thick tube carrying blood from the heart) in a person who has angina

bypass – v. to avoid something by going around it

blockage – n. something that stops something else passing through, or the act of stopping something passing through

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