98% ethanol looks like it may be an effective chemical ablation agent. In fact, a few judicious alcohol injections in the right place seemed to be far more effective than standard surgery alone.
Of course, this is a new treatment, and long-term outcomes have not been determined. It is promising to note that the injection does not appear to significantly raise blood-alcohol concentrations.
Doctors in the U.S. and Japan have devised a way to treat atrial fibrillation by adding a little alcohol to minimally invasive therapies that target a cluster of misbehaving nerves known to trigger arrhythmia.
“This is a therapy that targets cardiac nerves previously shown to be involved in atrial fibrillation,” Valderrábano said. “Radiofrequency ablation carries risks of collateral damage to other structures and there are also risks associated with surgical approaches. We show that chemical ablation with alcohol can achieve elimination of abnormal nerve activity, introducing a catheter through a neck vein and doing all the work through it.”
This finding will surely need additional study in the future before you start to see it at a hospital near you. These researchers are hoping that this treatment may reduce the chances that a patient may suffer from recurring afib after the procedure is finished.
These injections contain less alcohol than your average can of beer, so they don’t seem to be all that unsafe. Researchers haven’t observed any complications related to the procedure, either. It will be interesting to see where they can take the research from here.