If you constantly feel a fluttering or a brief pause in your heartbeat, it’s possible that you’re one among millions of Americans who have an irregular heartbeat. Known as heart arrhythmia, this condition affects millions of individuals, and the most common type of this heart disease, atrial fibrillation, affects an estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the US. While some may dismiss arrhythmia as a minor health problem, living with this disease can be uncomfortable or even painful as it causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness. If severe, it may even cause death, that’s why it’s important to treat this condition immediately upon diagnosis.

Traditional ways to treat arrhythmia include medication and a pacemaker, but recently, it was found that Botox — the injectable popular for smoothing out wrinkles — may help to prevent a person from developing this heart condition. But while it may stop arrhythmia in its tracks, can Botox be used to treat a person who already has this condition? Here’s what you need to know about this new treatment and how it can prevent irregular heartbeat.

Preventing Those At Risk From Developing Arrhythmia

In a recent study, it has been found that about a third of patients undergoing bypass surgery will develop atrial fibrillation (AF). When this happens, the heart can either beat too fast or too slow. Complications such as a stroke, blood clots, or heart failure can occur after one develops AF.

In a research conducted in two Russian hospitals, random patients who were about to get bypass surgery were assigned to get saline or Botox injections in the four fat pads surrounding the heart. Thirty days after the surgery, it was found that those who received the Botox injections only had a seven percent chance of developing AF, as compared to 30% in the patients who got saline shots. It was noted that after a year, all of the patients who received Botox did not develop AF.

Senior study author Dr. Jonathan Steinberg told The Independent that while the research indicates a promising solution for the prevention of arrhythmia, it’s still too early to say whether Botox can be the go-to cure for this heart condition.

“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,” said Steinberg.

Can Botox Completely Treat Atrial Fibrillation?

The research carried out in Russia shows that AF can be prevented in heart surgery patients, but can Botox completely treat this condition? In a follow up on the 2015 study, Duke Clinical Research Institute researchers found that there is a slight possibility that the toxin can cure heart flutter.

Last year, the DCRI conducted a similar study on a larger scale, this time assigning 130 random patients to receive saline or Botox injections. Afterward, it was found that 36.5% of those who received Botox had atrial fibrillation, while 47.8% of patients who got saline shots developed the heart condition. It was also noted that those who received Botox injections had shorter bouts of typical AF symptoms.

DCRI member and study author, Dr. Jonathan Piccini said that while the research indicates a “modest positive effect” on preventing AF, a larger trial is needed to prove once and for all that Botox can be the answer to arrhythmia.

Should You Get Botox Before Your Heart Surgery?

Both studies have shown that Botox has a positive effect in preventing arrhythmia. However, further clinical tests are needed in order to make this treatment a standard in the prevention or treatment of this heart condition. Until then, the best course to take in treating irregular heartbeat is through regular monitoring of your pulse and taking medication or treatments prescribed by your doctor. Reducing stress and living a healthy lifestyle can also help to quell AF symptoms. For now, Botox can be the solution to skin or other beauty problems, but in the treatment of AF, it has yet to be proven by experts.

Sources:

1. Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet, CDC,

https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_atrial_fibrillation.htm

2. What Is An Arrhythmia? American Heart Association,

http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300290.pdf

3. Botox Stops Irregular Heartbeat After Surgery, Say Scientists,https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/botox-stops-irregular-heartbeat-after-surgery-say-scientists-a6701831.html

4. AHA 2017: Unclear If Botox Can Treat Atrial Fibrillation, Researchers Say,https://dcri.org/botox_atrial_fibrillation/

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