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Healthcare

UPDATE 1-St. Jude atrial fibrillation trial meets goals

* Ablation better than drugs to treat atrial fibrillation

* Study includes patients with advanced disease

* Lays foundation for larger study (Updates with detail on study)

ATLANTA, March 15 (Reuters) - A catheter-based procedure to treat a common and potentially serious heart rhythm disorder worked better than medicine, even in patients whose disease was more advanced, researchers said on Monday.

In a small study of 60 patients with advanced atrial fibrillation, researchers found that ablation -- a procedure which involves destroying problem-causing heart tissue -- worked better than conventional anti-arrhythmic drugs.

Patients in both groups tended to have other medical problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or coronary artery disease,

Dr. Douglas Packer of the Mayo Clinic and lead investigator of the St. Jude Medical Inc STJ.N-funded study, dubbed Cabana, acknowledged that the main limitation of this study was its small size, but said it lays the foundation for a larger one. Packer presented the study at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in Atlanta.

Packer said the larger study, which will include 180 centers, is currently enrolling patients. (Reporting by Debra Sherman and Bill Berkrot, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Derek Caney)

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