New study backs catheter ablation

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Patients who receive catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation have increased survival and reduced hospitalisation rates, according to new international research published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, which compared catheter ablation to standard drug therapy, was conducted with patients in North America, Europe and Australia.

Atrial fibrillation is Australia's most common heart rhythm disorder, a leading cause of stroke, and can lead to heart failure.

"This study confirms what we have said for many years that catheter ablation is highly effective and should be included on the PL," said CEO and founder of patient representative group Hearts4Heart.

"This study removes any suggestion that there is a lack of evidence to support the use of catheter ablation in patients with AF. What this gives us is conclusive evidence that lives are saved and that wider access is required."

Ms Hall said Hearts4Heart is calling on government to fast-track the process for the current review of the Prostheses List so that it can include catheter ablation. 

As a non-implantable device, with the catheter removed from the body after the procedure, catheter ablation does not meet the criteria for inclusion on government's Prostheses List. Inclusion would compel private health insurers to fund the procedure.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) also welcomed the findings saying it supports calls made by Hearts4Heart for an end to the "wrangling" that leaves thousands of Australians languishing on public hospital waiting lists.

"The PL has not kept pace with advances in medical technology resulting in devices like catheter ablation not being eligible for listing because they are not permanently implanted in the body," said MTAA.

“This report supports our calls for non-implantable devices like catheter ablation being fast-tracked to the Prostheses List," said CEO Ian Burgess.

“The medical device sector has played its part in reducing healthcare costs by helping to deliver the lowest private health insurance premium increase in 17 years.

“But the current Prostheses List while successful in supporting choice and containing costs has not been updated to reflect advances in technology and models of care.

“The Prostheses List is a benefit to private health insurance members that ensures no out of pocket costs for medical devices.

“We believe access to a full range of medical technology is the most valuable component of a private health insurance policy and enables the medical device industry to do what it does best – assist patients lead healthier and more productive lives."