Published on June 04, 2014

New medical procedure reduces strokes, boosts medical tourism

OzaA brand-new medical procedure is not only reducing the risk of strokes but also helping to position Jacksonville as a medical tourism hub.

Dorothy Stratton faced a grim prognosis. Not only was she diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body, but she wasn’t eligible to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming and going to her brain.

To top it off, she knew exactly what would happen if left unattended.

"My father had a massive stroke and I saw what it did to him. He couldn't talk, he couldn't walk, he couldn't use half of his body and it just terrified me," said Stratton.

Stratton was out of options until she met Dr. Saumil Oza, who explained there is one last chance to prevent the same fate as her father.

It’s called the Lariat. Oza is the first doctor in the area to perform procedure.

"What the Lariat does is it actually ties off the left atrial appendage and eliminates that risk for stroke without the use of blood thinners," said Oza. Stratton's surgery lasted about two hours at St. Vincent's Riverside. Using two magnets attached to needles, Oza cinched off the part of Stratton's heart where clots could form.

Oza said this groundbreaking operation can now be added to Jacksonville's arsenal of medical procedures while helping to make it a hub for medical tourism.

"We have patients coming from as far as south Florida, South Carolina, as far west as Valdosta, Georgia. So our radius for getting patients is increasing and this procedure is going to increase it further," said Oza.

Oza believes Stratton is the first of many patients who will undergo the Lariat procedure.

Like Stratton, many who suffer from the same condition now have a chance to live a normal life.
"I feel like he gave me a new beginning," said Stratton.
It's been a week since Stratton had the procedure. In about a month, she will return to St. Vincent's Medical Center to be cardioverted, which means her heart will be reset to get it back to a normal rhythm.

According to Oza, there are 2-3 million people suffering from atrial fibrillation in the United States but only 50 percent of patients that are supposed to be on blood thinners actually are, leaving the other half potentially eligible for the Lariat procedure.