Such an incident puts patients at higher risk for cardiovascular complications which if worsened, could only lead to long-term hospitalization and high healthcare costs, according to Jonathan S. Steinberg, M.D., senior author and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester, and Director of the Arrhythmia Institute in the Valley Health System in Ridgewood, New Jersey, as stated in the press release.
Although no adverse symptoms were seen in patients given Botox, researchers said larger studies need to be done on the efficacy and safety of using it. If successful, however, they said patients undergoing heart valve fix or replacement could be candidates for Botox to prevent irregular heartbeat. Depending on how many arteries are blocked, the patient may undergo one, two, three or more bypass grafts. “In the near future, Botox injections may become the standard of care for heart bypass and valve patients, but we’re not quite there yet”. Botox, a form of botulinum toxin, comes from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. A few patients received a saline injection, while the rest received a Botox injection. The Botox was injected into fat pockets that surround the heart, in four different locations.
Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, as the abnormal heartbeat is sometimes called, can lead to serious problems, including kidney damage, stroke or death. Injecting a small amount of it into a muscle can effectively block nerve signals and subsequently induce temporary paralysis. The thought was that Botox could stop the irregular muscle contractions in the heart. In the first thirty days after surgery, about thirty percent of the saline recipients developed atrial fibrillation, as expected.
Researchers found that in the 30 days following surgery, those who received Botox injections during heart bypass surgery had a 7% chance of developing AF, compared with a 30% chance in patients who received saline.
This trial puts forth the idea that Botox could prevent atrial fibrillation or AFib. After about a year, twenty-seven percent of the saline patients experienced atrial fibrillation compared to none of the Botox patients.
The Botox group did not indicate any complication, but complications in regards to the surgery were similar in both groups.
Steinberg and his colleagues collaborated with doctors in Russian Federation to test the injections in a group of 60 patients who had irregular heart rhythms and were scheduled to have heart bypass operations.
According to the report by Time, their study may greatly help patients stabilize their heart beats. Although best known for temporarily reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles, the drug has also been used to treat migraine headaches, overactive bladder and excessive sweating, among other conditions.