Botulinum toxin may help even the heart

The versatility of botulinum toxin continues to amaze. The use of botulinum toxin (Botox) for the treatment of migraine headaches (pioneered at the New York Headache Center) is becoming widespread in the US. The original FDA-approved indications for botulinum toxin was a rare eye condition, blepharospasm as well as strabismus. The number of indications (not all of them yet FDA-approved) for botulinum toxin has increased very quickly – from cosmetic use for wrinkles to gastrointestinal disorders (narrowing of the esophagus, rectal fissures), excessive sweating, muscle spasticity of cerebral palsy and following a stroke, neuropathic pain (neuropathy, trigeminal neuralgia, shingles), spastic bladder (which causes frequent urination), and other.

Injecting botulinum toxin into the fat pads around the heart after coronary bypass surgery seems to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation, an irregular hear beat. This is the conclusion of a randomized and blinded study of 60 patients, half of whom were injected with saline water and the other half with botulinum toxin (not Botox, but one of the other 3 botulinum toxin products, Xeomin).

Patients who received injections of botulinum toxin instead of saline water had a significantly lower rate of irregular heart beats in the first 30 days (30% versus 7%), according to Evgeny Pokushalov, MD, PhD, of the State Research Institute of Circulation Pathology in Novosibirsk, Russia. Injections of botulinum toxin around the heart did not cause any complications or side effects. These irregularities of heart rhythm can be dangerous and if these findings are confirmed, botulinum toxin injections may become standard during coronary bypass surgery. If these injections are indeed effective they would also save money by reducing the duration of hospital stay and preventing the need for additional treatments of irregular heart beat.

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