A new study into treating atrial fibrillation by Dr. Francis Marchlinski and colleagues found that patient’s self-monitoring their cardiac rhythms through a smartphone app may be a promising new alternative to taking blood-thinning medication.
The study had patients monitor their pulse twice daily for 18-months, and only had patients take blood-thinners when experiencing, or were suspected of experiencing atrial fibrillation. 94% of study participants maintained their self-monitoring treatment in lieu of anticoagulant medications. If you would like to learn more about the study’s research process and results, click here.
Dr. Francis Marchlinski, Director of Electrophysiology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, wanted to find a non-pharmaceutical way to regulate atrial fibrillation (Afib) because current medications used to treat this condition, while effective, can have problematic side effects.
A patient in Afib experiences heart-arrhythmias, which slow the flow of blood through the heart and increases the risk of blood clots and stroke. The go-to method for reducing risks brought on by Afib has been anticoagulants—blood-thinning medications— but long-term usage of these drugs can put patients at a higher risk of bleeding that can turn something as simple as a paper-cut into a much larger problem.
“If you don’t need [blood-thinning medications] continuously, it’s reasonable to try to avoid them as much as possible,” Marchlinski said.
Of the 100 research participants, nine used a portable device to check their cardiac rhythms. Self-monitoring devices are becoming a more widely-available option when treating cardiac arrhythmias by helping to keep recurring emergency room visits low and giving peace of mind to users.
Although, Marchlinski’s “as-needed” approach when taking blood-thinning medications isn’t for all atrial fibrillation patients.
“This potential strategy for intermittent use is only intended for patients with electrocardiogram-demonstrated control of atrial fibrillation, who have undergone an extended period of monitoring, and who are avid pulse-takers that can recognize their atrial fibrillation if it occurs… In other words, it’s a very select group of highly motivated patients,” Marchlinski said.
More research into the use of self-monitoring for atrial fibrillation must be conducted before being considered a widely accepted treatment option for Afib patients, but Marchlinski’s pilot study show promising results.
Please consult your physician before making any changes to your current medication and healthcare routines.
Adapted from U.S. News & World Report