botox-vial_opt Botox may help prevent atrial fibrillation (AF) in patients who undergo coronary artery bypass surgery, according to research published in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

Between 30% to 40% of people who have the bypass surgery will develop AF, which increases the risk for both stroke and congestive heart failure, the researchers note. Injecting botulinum toxin into the heart’s epicardial fat pads during heart surgery nearly eliminated the risk of atrial fibrillation for as long as a year after the surgery, the new study showed.

The Botox works by blocking the nerve signals that tell muscles to contract, causing AF.

In the study of 60 patients who had a history of AF before their surgery, half had Botox injected directly into the heart fat during surgery; the other half received a placebo injection. None were currently taking AF medications. There were no immediate complications from either type of injection, and there were no complications during the 1 year postsurgery follow-up period.

Seven percent of the patients who received Botox went on to experience AF during the pivotal 1-to-3-week period following surgery, compared with 30% of patients who didn’t get Botox. Slightly more than one-quarter of the non-Botox group experienced recurring AF bouts  during the 11 months following surgery. None of the Botox patients experienced AF during the same time frame, the study showed.

[Source: media reports]