"No data is better than bad data" – caution about AF ablation preventing dementia

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Heart rhythm specialist physician-blogger John Mandrola begins his blog posting today with that line, referring to recent news about a study of ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF) also reducing the risk of dementia.

In it, he links to our site because of our frequent cautions about overenthusiasm for preliminary findings presented in abstracts at medical/scientific meetings. He writes:

“I am not saying the study is dishonest or false, just preliminary.

The troubling aspect for a provider of AF care is the obvious and overt sensationalism. Taking an abstract and proclaiming that AF ablation reduces dementia risk is irresponsible and misleading.

Shouldn’t the storyline read something closer to this:

An observational, single-center, uncontrolled and un-blinded preliminary report–presented in abstract form only–suggested that a cohort of AF patients who were healthy enough to undergo AF ablation had a lower risk of dementia. The data are yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal, and the dementia-preventative effects of AF ablation, if any, are yet to be defined.

AF therapy is complicated enough already. Over-sensationalized misinformation in the lay press make it even harder to explain the issues at hand to patients.”

It’s a smart analysis. Read the whole blog post.

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