New procedure helps those with atrial fibrillation who can't take blood thinners reduce stroke risk
By Charlie Patton, Jacksonville.com
Tue, Sep 2, 2014 @ 5:48 pm
When Dorothy Stratton was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in January, she knew she had a problem.
She had been successfully treated in the past for atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heart beats erratically, which increases someone’s risk of stroke. That’s because in someone with atrial fibrillation, blood tends to pool in the left atrial appendage of the heart, which can result in blood clots that can cause strokes.
The possibility of a stroke was a particular concern for Stratton.
“My father had a severe stroke, so I’ve seen the effects firsthand,” Stratton said.
Most people with atrial fibrillation are given blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots forming. But when Stratton was given a blood thinner, she developed bleeding in her brain.
She had to stop the blood thinners. So when her atrial fibrillation recurred, she worried that a stroke was imminent.
She said she felt like “a ticking time bomb, just waiting for a stroke to hit at any moment,”
Then somebody suggested she seek out Saumil Oza, a cardiac electrophysiologist with St. Vincent’s Health Care’s Atrial Fibrillation Institute and a physician with Diagnostic Cardiology Associates.
Oza had an answer for Stratton, a new approach called the Lariat procedure. Oza performed the Lariat procedure on Stratton last May, the first time the procedure had been done in Jacksonville. Oza traveled to University Hospital of Kansas City to train to do the surgery.
Oza said atrial fibrillation is an increasingly common problem in America with an estimated 2 million to 3 million people currently dealing with it, a number that is expected to increase to 5 million to 6 million over the next 25 years. Meanwhile, he said that an estimated 50 percent of the people who should be on blood thinners aren’t. Many of them are like Stratton, people who have had bleeding problems that make taking blood thinners risky. Aging increases the chance of developing atrial fibrillation with 10 percent of the people over 75 developing it.
Oza called the Lariat “a neat procedure.”
Using a catheter inserted into a vein in the leg, a doctor moves the Lariat Suture Delivery System into position.
“Then you slip a suture like a lasso over the left atrial appendage,” he said.
That seals off the left atrial appendage, where most stroke-causing blood clots form, preventing those clots from getting into the bloodstream.
Stratton said undergoing the procedure has changed her life, giving her the “hope and the freedom to live my life without fear.”
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413