Botox proven to be effective at stabilising heart rhythm following major heart surgery

Posted: 26/10/2015


Researchers in Russia have discovered that the injection of Botox into the fat surrounding the heart after bypass surgery may prevent irregular heart rhythms. About one third of all patients undergoing bypass surgery will develop atrial fibrillation (AF), an abnormal heart rhythm characterised by rapid and irregular beating. This can lead to heart related complications such as blood clots, stroke and even heart failure. AF is often treated with medications to control the heart rate.  

A study in two Russian hospitals was recently undertaken to test the effects of Botox in managing this condition. Botulinum toxin is a protein and neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The most well-known form of botulinum toxin type A is Botox, which is available commercially for various cosmetic and medical procedures. The toxin prevents muscles from receiving nerve stimulation causing the muscles to become paralysed. 

Sixty patients in the hospitals were randomly assigned to receive Botox or saline injections. The injections were made in the four major fat pads surrounding the heart. Researchers found that: 

  • In the 30 days following surgery, those who received Botox injections during heart bypass surgery had a 7% chance of developing AF, compared to a 30% chance in those who received saline. 
  • One year after the surgery, none of the patients who received Botox had AF, compared to 27% of the patients who received saline. 
  • There were no complications from the Botox injections reported.  

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “Botox is proving to be a very versatile drug. This recent research will need to be tested in larger studies before Botox injections are routinely used to prevent AF after bypass surgery but these results look promising. Many patients who undergo this surgery develop AF, which leads to a prolonged hospital stay and potentially effects survival rates. Botox may work by paralysing some of the signals sent to the heart after surgery, thereby giving the heart rhythm the chance to stabilise more quickly. This in turn would substantially lower the risk of serious post-surgery complications like stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.”


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