Reported December 2005
ROYAL OAK, Mich. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- More than two million Americans live with a serious heart condition called atrial fibrillation. These patients are five-times more likely to have a stroke. Now, a small device may save thousands of Americans from having a stroke.
Mary Moore is an atrial fibrillation patient who spends her day helping others. A few months ago she, however, was the one who needed help. Doctors told Moore she had atrial fibrillation, a condition that caused the two upper chambers of her heart to quiver instead of beat normally.
"It's just scary when you can feel your heart racing," Moore says. Steven Almany, M.D., a cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., says abnormal rhythm can cause a stroke. While the blood thinner coumadin reduces the chance of a stroke, it comes with its own risks.
"It's one of the forms of what they use for rat poison. You don't try to tell patients that when you put them on the medication, but yeah, it is rat poison," Dr. Almany says.
The watchman procedure may be a better solution. A small parachute-like device is placed near the left appendage of the heart. Once there, the device deploys and stops clots from leaving the heart and traveling to the brain. Dr. Almany says: "When drug-coated stents came, it was a big deal to us. I mean, it's made a huge dent on morbidity in the United States. I would put this as big if not bigger."
In one study, the device was about 60-percent better than coumadin at reducing the risk of stroke. Moore had the procedure and is off the drug. "I don't have to go get the blood drawn constantly, and I don't have to worry about am I going to take too much, too little. So, that was the biggest thing for me," she says. Now she can enjoy life whole-heartedly.
The watchman procedure may one day help patients who are at risk for stroke but don't have atrial fibrillation. The procedure is not yet FDA approved but is in ongoing trials nationwide.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
For more info on the device:
Sue Buck, research nurse
More about heart disease:
American Heart Association
Find an institution near you taking part in the trial:
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