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Radio waves found to correct irregular heartbeats

Radio waves delivered to the heart through a tube can cure some common forms of irregular heartbeats and eliminate the need for surgery, pacemakers or lifelong drug treatment, researchers report. Doctors describe the technique as being highly effective for treating forms of tachycardia _ irregularities that cause the heart to race suddenly.

The new therapy, called radiofrequency current catheter ablation, has been adopted at several hospitals.

It was pioneered by Dr. Warren M. Jackman of the University of Oklahoma, co-author of one of two reports on the technique published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Although some have estimated that perhaps three of every 1,000 people have tachycardia, no one knows precisely how common the condition is. The new approach seems to be effective for some but not all forms of the disorder.

Researchers said the approach will not cure atrial fibrillation, which is especially common and is the ailment that recently sent President Bush to the hospital.