St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre Part of Clinical Trial on Atrial Fibrillation Treatments Published in the New England Journal of Medicine

November 23rd, 2020

St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre is excited to have participated in an important multi-center clinical trial that highlighted the benefits of a treatment coming to St. Mary’s in January of 2021 for certain heart rhythm patients.

The Canadian study was published November 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented as a late breaking clinical trial at the American Heart Association.

Researchers studied which patients had better results for initial treatment of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, those treated with cyroblation therapy or anti-arrhythmia drugs. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a sudden, rapid and erratic heart rate that leads to poor quality of life for patients and can be life threatening. Fifteen of the 303 patients participating in the trial were from St. Mary’s.

Cryoblation is a procedure in which a thin flexible tube called a balloon catheter is inserted to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers an irregular heartbeat. Half of the patients in the study underwent the procedure and half were treated with drug therapy.

The study found a significantly lower rates of atrial fibrillation recurrence after one year in those treated with cryoblation therapy versus drug therapy.

Dr. Umjeet Jolly, a Cardiac Electrophysiologist and physician lead for the electrophysiology and ablation program at St. Mary’s, co-authored the study. He said it will help guide physicians in treatment recommendations for patients with this type of condition.

“Atrial fibrillation can be quite debilitating for patients,” said Dr. Jolly. “This study demonstrated that ablation therapy can allow them to resume activities, and reduce or eliminate symptoms of atrial fibrillation like shortness of breath, fatigue, or weakness.”

Dr. Jolly provides inpatient and outpatient care at St. Mary’s for patients with heart rhythm issues. However, without facilities for electrophysiology studies and ablation at St. Mary’s, he has been conducting those at London Health Sciences Centre. He and the St. Mary’s team look forward, beginning in early January, to providing those procedures in a new high-tech electrophysiology suite nearing completion at the hospital. The suite is part of a $15 million project that includes clinic, preparation and recovery space. From January to March 2021, St. Mary’s expects to provide electrophysiology studies and ablation for about 120 patients.

“This will be a huge step forward for our patients, many of whom are older and face travelling to a city and hospital they may not be familiar with when they are quite ill. Having this treatment close to home with the best in equipment provided by our community will dramatically reduce wait times and travel for these patients and be a game changer,” Dr. Jolly said.

Currently the cardiac centre at St. Mary’s, which serves a catchment area of more than one million people, is participating in 21 active studies. “We look forward to continuing to offer our cardiac patients the latest cutting edge Canadian research trials,” said Dr. Jolly. “It is gratifying for the entire research team and patients, to have an opportunities to potentially advance the science behind cardiac care.”

In congratulating the team St. Mary’s President Lee Fairclough said, “Participating in high quality clinical trials is important, and often challenging work. The rewards are when studies like this demonstrates differences that could inform the future of care for those in need.”