BOSTON, May 15 (UPI) -- Botox is the go-to solution for millions of people to eliminate facial wrinkles, but has recently been found to prevent heart rhythm problems after major surgeries.
Open heart surgery patients did not develop atrial fibrillation following the procedure after doctors injected botulinum toxin into the fat pads surrounding their hearts.
Sixty patients who underwent surgery were included in the study, said Dr. Evgeny Pokushalov, a professor of medicine at the State Research Institute of Circulation Pathology in Novosibirsk, Russia. Half the patients received injections of the toxin and the rest were given a saline injection instead.
All 30 patients who were given the Botox injection showed no signs of irregular heart rhythms in the three weeks following surgery, compared to seven of the 30 who received saline. Patients were then tracked for a year after surgery and none of the 30 who received a Botox injection had complications.
Roughly one-third of all open heart surgery patients develop atrial fibrillation following the procedure.
"What we have now is a preliminary proof of concept that we can use Botox as a way to prevent the opportunity for any atrial fibrillation after surgery," he said while presenting the research at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in Boston on May 12.
Botox was approved by the FDA in 1989 for vision problems, in addition to eliminating wrinkles. The drug has since been approved to treat migraines, overactive bladders and excessive sweating, so testing its effectiveness to help regulate heart rhythms is not an overreach.
"I think the concept is intuitive, it makes sense to me," Dr. Micahel Chancellor, a urologist and director of the Aikens Neurology Research Center at Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich., told Health Day. "Because the way it [Botox] would work to limit atrial fibrillation is analogous to the way it works to prevent and block the nerve-mediated pain and neurotransmitter activity seen, for example, in migraines."