By Marcela Rojas, Public and Community Affairs, Putnam Hospital
Nuvance Health offers an advanced treatment option to reduce the risk of stroke in cardiac patients who have atrial fibrillation and do not qualify for long-term use of blood thinners.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a heart rhythm problem and a progressive condition that, if left untreated, can lead to blood clots, strokes, heart failure and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates up to 6 million people have AFib, a figure expected to double by 2030.
At Nuvance Health, Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, and Danbury Hospital in Connecticut perform a procedure called a left atrial appendage occlusion where an implant is placed in your heart.
"Patients can have serious complications with blood thinners, but there can also be a significant stroke risk with atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Vinay Mehta, medical director of the Nuvance Health Heart and Vascular Institute electrophysiology services in Connecticut. “Fortunately, now we have minimally invasive options like left atrial appendage occlusion devices, which can minimize stroke risk without the need for long-term blood thinners like coumadin in patients who have difficulty with these medications."
Dr. Sankar Varanasi, medical director of the Nuvance Health Heart and Vascular Institute electrophysiology services in New York, has performed many left atrial appendage occlusions and agrees it is an alternative for patients who cannot tolerate blood-thinning medications.
“This is an advanced treatment option for our patients with AFib that can be done safely and conveniently, without the need to travel far from home,” Varanasi said.
How It Works
The implant forms a barrier against blood clots by closing the left atrial appendage where most blood clots form. A team of cardiac electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists use real-time image guidance and a catheter to implant the device that’s about the size of a quarter into the heart’s left atrium. With the patient under general anesthesia, the procedure takes about 30 minutes.
Following the procedure, patients stay in the hospital for a day or less. Blood thinners are given for about 45 days, allowing time for the left atrial appendage to be permanently shut off. Heart tissue eventually grows over the device and blood thinners are no longer required.
Speak to your cardiologist about whether the implant is right for you. You may be eligible if you have AFib that is not caused by heart valve problems, are taking blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life and have a history and/or severe risk of bleeding.
Find out more about left atrial appendage occlusion.