Allied Market Research published its Atrial Fibrillation Market Report in 2016, forecasting market growth to 2022. They expect atrial fibrillation (AF) therapies to reap $8,319 million in the next 5 years, yielding a CAGR of 13.0% by 2022. The report found that North America has, and will continue to have (with a CAGR of 12.1%), a stronghold on the market, and that non-surgical devices dominated the space in 2015- catheter ablation generating the highest gains.

There are a variety of factors driving the market boom for AF- a growing geriatric population with an increasing rate of AF, improved access to healthcare and treatments, a better educated patient population, and technical innovation in therapies. Companies are making great strides in developing healthcare solutions which make detecting AF easier, and living with it more manageable. Here, we explore some of the treatments on the forefront, certain to garner the predicted return.

Understanding atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, which affected between 2.7 and 6.1 million of Americans in 2010. AF is asymptomatic, so many people are not aware that they have it, making it difficult to precisely determine its prevalence. This particular kind of arrhythmia is rapid and erratic, occurring in the left and right atria because of an abnormal electrical signal in the heart. This causes the atria and ventricles to beat out of sync, wherein blood collects in the nether ventricles and blood flow is distributed inconsistently. Untreated, AF can produce a stroke or heart failure.

Catheter ablation therapy

Catheter ablation is the most commercially successful therapy for AF, with an expected CAGR of 13.8%. This growth is due in part to the triumph of advancements in treatment, like AtriCure’s cryForm Cryoablation Probe, a flexible and minimally invasive intervention tool using nitrous oxide to treat arrhythmia. Using catheters, ablation technologies emit energy to scar cardiac tissue, limiting possible irregular electrical signals in the heart. Catheter ablation is an appealing treatment because it is non-surgical and results in minimal recovery time.

In 2017, Abbott Laboratories received the CE marking for their TactiCath Quartz contact force ablation catheter. The catheter integrates with Abbot’s EnSite Precision cardiac mapping system, a 3D mapping system which aids physicians in applying contact force to create lesions on heart tissue.

Medtronic has created successful AF therapies using radiofrequency thermal ablation systems (the Cool-tip) and microwave ablation (Evident), which is delivered with small probes, or “antennas”.

Other therapy advancements

Medtronic announced the FDA’s approval as the first US medical device manufacturer of MRI compatible implanted cardiac devices in 2017. As MRI’s are the diagnostic imaging systems of choice, the inability to defer to one in fear of device malfunction due to electromagnetic interaction prevented patients from enjoying the full scope of care. Their suite of defibrillators, pacemakers, and cardiac monitors can now be used safely with both 1.5 Tesla and 3T Tesla MRIs. This includes the Visia AF and Visia AF MRI implantable cardioverter defibrillators, which monitor and manage atrial fibrillation. As 15% of patients who suffer strokes also live with AF, it’s imperative for people with implanted devices to be able to access MRIs.

Another innovative tool in the fight to manage AF is cardiac rhythm detecting wearables. Preventice introduced the BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System, a pocket-sized monitor which tracks arrhythmic activity for AF patients, and transmits its recordings. Formerly CardioNet Inc., BioTelemetry hosts a suite of heart event monitoring devices which detect arrhythmias and offer data reporting, soon to include its MCOT Patch for irregular heartbeat discovery and analysis.

Observing irregular cardiac behavior not only saves lives, but can save in healthcare costs by preventing hospitalizations and preparing for potential comorbidity.

Atrial fibrillation and strokes

In May of 2017, Boston Scientific released the results of a year long study which found an 84% reduction (compared to untreated patients) in strokes for nonvalvular atrial fibrillation patients who were treated with their Watchman. The Watchman is an implanted device which closes the left atrium to mitigate strokes in AF patients- the left atrial appendage is where most stroke-inducing blood clots are believed to originate.

The Stroke Prevention Devices Market has experienced a lot of growth because of the increase in geriatric population in the western world. With an expanded geriatric population follows an uptick in AF patients who must stay vigilant in stroke detection (they are 5 times more likely to experience a stroke than people with regular heartbeats), presenting new opportunities for growth and innovation in the marketplace.

The future of AF therapy innovation

Continued monitoring of AF is paramount. Cutting-edge therapies such as catheter ablation, monitoring and detection wearables, and MRI-friendly plantable devices are changing the treatment landscape, reducing healthcare costs and giving patients longer, better quality of life but as AF therapies are predicted to yield a CAGR of 13% in the next 5 years, where can treatments innovate going forward? Where else can they add value for patients?

In addition to revolutionizing stroke risk reduction for AF patients, Boston Scientific has been breaking new ground treating patients for heart failure. They teamed up with a CRM company to monitor patients who’d been hospitalized for heart failure in an effort to reduce hospital readmissions after treatment. Beginning with the patient’s intake, Boston Scientific used technology to capture real-time insights into patient’s self-management efforts. Post-hospitalization, Boston Scientific could make calculated interventions with patients, educating them on their disease state and therapy, continuing relationships with patients throughout their healthcare journey.

Using “pathway analytics” to measure cost-efficiency and patient outcomes, Boston Scientific found 25% of the hospital readmissions for heart failure patients could be avoidable, thereby cutting spending for all parties. It was their assessment that “better care coordination, supported by modern technology and process…can decrease overall costs.”

Offering post-diagnostic patient support services grants stakeholders a place to stay attentive to at-risk populations, and patients peace of mind. Integrating a modular platform with services, coordinates patient and treatment data and ensures patients adhere to event monitoring and therapy. To fully take advantage of the atrial fibrillation market surge, medical devices will have to continue to innovate and distinguish themselves from their competitors.