Are Patients Over Eighty Candidates for Atrial Fibrillation Procedures?

October 30, 2008 7:52 AM CT

In the past week I’ve been approached by several folks in their eighties who are interested in catheter ablation or surgery for their atrial fibrillation. But eighty is often considered the upper limit for these procedures due to concerns about the health of the patient.

As our aging population continues to stay healthy—except for their atrial fibrillation, heart valve issues, or similar issues—there will be more and more demand for surgery past the age of eighty.

I’ve met several folks in their eighties who have had these procedures and did great. They were usually evaluated on a case by case basis by their doctors, one of whom said that he has had patients in their eighties who were healthier than some who were much younger.

A new study just presented to the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress adds to our knowledge about heart surgery and procedures for those over eighty. The study found that patients in their eighties do just fine with open-heart surgery if they are in good overall health to start with. And open-heart surgery is more invasive and difficult than catheter ablation or closed-chest mini-maze surgery.

The Canadian study involved 185 patients who had open-heart surgery to replace a heart valve. Sixty per cent of those patients were still alive five years after surgery, and ninety per cent of them were leading active lives.

The study author says, “Age should not be a reason for doctors to rule out the possibility of heart surgery for octogenarian patients. If patients with heart problems are otherwise in good health, this surgery can significantly improve their quality of life.”

The results of this study, and the success we’ve already seen for afib procedures among patients in their eighties, together demonstrate the promise of these procedures for extending the longevity and improving the quality of life for those with atrial fibrillation in their eighties and beyond.

Read: Open-heart surgery okay for octogenarians