-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Snipping certain nerves may
help prevent dangerous heart rhythms caused by stress, a small, new
An adrenalin-driven "fight or flight" stress reaction in
response to danger is normal, but this reaction is abnormally
strong in some people and can lead to excessive sweaty palms
(hyperhidrosis) and irregular heart rhythms called ventricular
arrhythmias, which originate in the lower chambers of the
Now, a team of cardiologists at the University of California,
Los Angeles has found that snipping nerves related to the
sympathetic nervous system on both the right and left sides of the
chest may help prevent these ventricular arrhythmias, also referred
to as "electrical storms."
Ventricular arrhythmia kills 400,000 people in the United States
each year and is a leading cause of death in the nation, according
to a UCLA Health Sciences news release. Treatments include
medications, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator and a
procedure called catheter ablation, which provides a targeted burn
to the tiny area of the heart that causes the irregular
"When these treatment options fail, especially for a patient experiencing a life-threatening electrical storm, the situation becomes critical. We are always seeking additional options to help patients," senior study author Dr. Kalyanam Shivkumar, director of the UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center and co-director of the Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress at UCLA, said in the news release.
The new procedure, called a bilateral cardiac sympathetic
denervation, was performed on six patients. After the surgery, four
of the patients had a complete response and no longer experienced
arrhythmias, one patient had a partial response, and one had no
One cardiologist said the nerve snip may have a place in caring
"Autonomic influences on the cardiac rhythm may be very potent and their subsequent manipulation to aid in rhythm management have been utilized for several years," said Dr. Larry Chinitz, director of the Heart Rhythm Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. He called the new procedure "an innovative use of this surgical technique and one that may prove to be a potent adjunct to currently available therapies."
The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of
Health, appears in the Dec. 27/Jan.3 issue of the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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