Electrophysiologist Darren Sidney, MD with Charleston Heart Specialists is South Carolina’s first physician to implant a next generation device to reduce the risk of stroke for patients with Atrial Fibrillation ( AFib ). Today, he performed the procedure, a Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC), at Trident Medical Center on a 71 year old male.
AFib is one of the most common forms of heart disease and affects more than 2.7 million people in the United States. “Many patients describe AFib as feeling like a quivering heart beat, “ explained Dr. Sidney. “Patients with AFib are five times more likely to suffer a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. Understanding the connection between AFib and stroke helps patients learn how the LAAC works.”
AFib affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. This can cause blood to pool in an area of the heart called the Left Atrial Appendage , or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.
“For patients with AFib not caused by a heart valve issue, more than 90% of stroke causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. Closing off this part of the heart has been a proven alternative to reduce stroke risk,” explained Dr. Sidney. Like most blood thinning medications the LAAC device can effectively reduce stroke risk and eliminate the need for blood thinners. This permanent implant is for people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem who need an alternative blood thinners. The LAAC device is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
Electrophysiologist Frank Cuoco, MD practices with Dr. Sidney at Charleston Heart Specialists. They have each performed more than 100 LAAC procedures using the earlier version of the implantable device. “Due to advances in technology we’re now able to offer more patients with AFib the opportunity to have the LAAC procedure with the new device,” explained Dr. Cuoco.
“The device is implanted into the heart in a one time procedure. It’s a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body,” said Dr. Sidney.
To implant the device the physician makes a small cut in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. The doctor then guides the device into the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart.
Dr. Cuoco explained, “The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.”
In a clinical trial 92% of patients were able to stop taking blood thinners 45 days after the procedure and 99% of patients were able to stop taking warfarin within one year after the procedure.
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