Payments lagging for popular cardiac treatment

Atrial fibrillation is fairly common in the United States, affecting at least 2.2 million people. This condition, which creates rapid and irregular heartbeats, often serves as a warning hearts are deteriorating and can be a major cause of stroke. Increasingly, physicians are hoping to treat it  with a costly procedure known as catheter-based ablation (CBA), rather than the fairly toxic drugs often used for this condition.

The problem is that the FDA hasn't approved any of the devices typically used for this procedure, which shut down abnormally-functioning portions of the heart muscle. FDA officials note it will be difficult to gather enough data on atrial fibrillation to make a determination, given how widely the condition varies among patients. That leaves hospitals and doctors struggling to get reimbursed for the procedure, which costs anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. However, patients continue to demand CBA, which is less invasive than open-heart surgery and seems, anecdotally, to have great potential for success.

To find out more about this trend:
- read this article in The New York Times

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