(RxWiki News) Patients that develop a common heart arrhythmia may benefit from an unexpected drug. A medication used to treat gout appears to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation following heart surgery.
Atrial fibrillation is the most frequent complication following heart operations such as coronary artery bypass grafting, valve surgery or a combination of the two procedures. Up to half of all cardiac surgery patients experience inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart after surgery, which can cause the potentially dangerous arrhythmia.
"Talk to your cardiologist about preventing atrial fibrillation after surgery."
Colchicine (Colcrys), generally prescribed for gouty arthritis pain, may reduce the incidences of post-operative heart arrhythmia.
Dr. Massimo Imazio, lead author of the study and a cardiologist at Maria Vittoria Hospital in Italy, said this marks the first time the drug has been found to help prevent atrial fibrillation. He said that the findings are significant because the drug may represent an inexpensive and safe option for preventing inflammation and arrhythmia following heart surgery.
During the double blind study researchers followed 336 heart surgery patients from six Italian medical centers. The average patient age was 66, and 69 percent of participants were men. The patients received either colchicine or a placebo beginning three days after heart surgery, and they continued taking it for a month.
Side effects were minimal though the group that took the drug was slightly more likely to experience gastrointestinal intolerance.
A month after surgery, the incidences of atrial fibrillation was reduced by half in the group that took colchicine, with 12 percent of those taking the drug suffering from atrial fibrillation compared to 22 percent in the control group. Patients taking colchicine also were hospitalized three fewer days — 21 versus 24 — than those who received a placebo.
Researchers said large-scale studies will be needed in which the drug is started earlier, ideally before surgery, before the medication is recommended as a treatment for reducing atrial fibrillation incidences. The drug is not currently approved to prevent atrial fibrillation.
The study was recently presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and also was simultaneously published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.