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Botox May Help Prevent Irregular Heartbeat After Bypass

First Posted: Oct 20, 2015 08:52 PM EDT

Studies show that in some cases, Botox can be used for medical purposes--ranging from injections to treat neck spasms or excessive sweating to overactive bladder and even crossed eyes. Yet new findings published in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology reveal that Botox may also be used to prevent irregular heart rhythms when injected into fat surrounding the heart following bypass surgery.

The study found that Botox, a toxin made from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, could help to prevent atrial fibrillation (AF)-abnormal heartbeat that can increase the risk of kidney damage, stroke and even death. The study results showed that a small amount injected into the muscle helps block the nerve that signals contractions that cause the problem.

"About a third of all patients undergoing bypass surgery will develop atrial fibrillation, putting them at higher risk for cardiovascular complications," Jonathan S. Steinberg, senior study author and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester and Director of the Arrhythmia Institute in the Valley Health System, said in a statement. "Atrial fibrillation is also always associated with lengthened hospitalization and that means increased healthcare costs."

The study consisted of 60 patients from two Russian hospitals who received either Botox or saline injections, which were put in the four major fat pads around the heart. Furthermore, to prevent study bias, neither the patients nor the doctors knew if the injections contained Botox or saline.

After 30 days following surgery, researchers found that those who received Botox injections during heart bypass surgery had a 7 percent chance of developing AF when compared to a 30 percent change in those who received saline.

One year after surgery, none of the patients who received Botox had AF, compared to 27 percent of the patients who received saline. No complications from the Botox injections were reported. But complications from the bypass surgery were similar in both groups, including time in intensive care and on a breathing machine, and infection rate.

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