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Laser Used to Blast Away Cells Causing Irregular Heartbeat


1 Star

Laser Used to Blast Away Cells Causing Irregular Heartbeat

Our Review Summary

Another HealthDay, another story straight from a news release. Which might not be so bad if it only put things in a balanced perspective.  Which this one doesn’t, as they often don’t.


Why This Matters

We also didn’t hear anything about why we don’t jump to conclusions after studies in just 27 people.  And why was the pig research thrown in?  To make the human findings seem more robust?!?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of costs – a recurring and significant oversight.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The claims of "100% accuracy" and that "The investigators found that after just one laser treatment, misfiring ceased in 84 percent of the treated veins, and 90 percent remained inactive three months after treatment" aren’t put into any meaningful context about what difference this made in patient outcomes.  Of course, what can you possibly say about outcomes after just three months?  Which is exactly the point of raising this issue at all. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of the limitations of drawing conclusions from a study of just 27 people.  No explanation of whether destroying misfiring cells with "100% accuracy" actually makes a difference in people’s lives and outcomes. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No overt disease mongering.  However, to say that "about 2.2 million Americans currently live with an irregular heartbeat condition, known as atrial fibrillation" in the same breath as describing a study of just 27 people may imply that this very small study has immediate ramifications for all 2.2 million.  And it does not. Barely satisfactory.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

There’s actually no interview – only a rehash of what was published in a journal, restated from a news release.  No independent source cited.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Again, the comparison of the "new approach" with existing approaches is superficial and unhelpful.  And there was no comparison of performance or outcomes data.  Terribly incomplete on this point.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

It is never made clear whether the device and approach are still experimental or already in clinical use.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The word "new" was used five times in the short story.  Yet the real novelty of this approach is only scantily and insufficiently described – especially if the implication is that this has relevance for 2.2 million Americans.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Satisfactory

The story admits it’s based on an American Heart Association news release.  There’s no sign of any independent reporting or vetting.

Total Score: 1 of 10 Satisfactory


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