New Procedure Treats Atrial Fibrillation

For immediate release: February 21, 2014

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Helps Prevent Stroke in Patients with A-Fib Who Cannot Use Blood Thinners

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The debilitating effects of stroke often last long after the first signs appear; a survivor may face months—sometimes years—of rehabilitation to relearn basic skills that were lost. So when some patients learn that the blood thinner they’re taking to help avoid a stroke may be causing more harm to their bodies, it can be terrifying.

Patients with atrial fibrillation, or“A-fib,” have hearts that beat irregularly and too fast. Nearly 3 million Americans have A-fib, and because the condition makes it harder for the heart’s upper and lower chambers to stay in sync, there’s a higher chance of stroke-causing blood clots forming. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Anticoagulant medications like warfarin, rivaroxaban, apixaban or dabigatran can be prescribed to reduce the risk of stroke, but they expose patients to an increased bleeding risk and require frequent blood tests, monitoring and doctor visits.

“We estimate that 20 percent of elderly A-fib patients cannot use blood thinners because of a history of gastrointestinal bleeding or other complications, so they are unprotected against stroke,” says Mukta Srivastava, MD, an interventional cardiologist and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “For older adults, loss of independence is their biggest fear, so the possibility of stroke is unsettling.”

UMMC at the forefront of new treatments

For these patients, a new treatment option could prevent stroke without causing other health issues in the process. University of Maryland Medical Center is one of only a few hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region to begin using a groundbreaking procedure called Lariat, which ties off a clot-forming portion of the heart in A-fib patients, sparing them the need to take blood thinners and lowering their stroke risk.

For A-fib patients with a history of complications from taking anticoagulants, the Lariat procedure is a strong alternative to decreasing the risk of stroke without affecting the rest of the heart.

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This page was last updated: October 22, 2014

         
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