The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is offering a new procedure that helps prevent stroke and significantly improves quality of life for patients with atrial fibrillation who can’t be treated with a blood thinner.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart quivers or beats irregularly, allowing blood clots to develop in the heart. These blood clots can dislodge and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. People with atrial fibrillation have a five-fold increased risk of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
“Atrial fibrillation is a manageable condition, but for patients who are not candidates for normal treatments, stroke is a serious risk and top concern,” says Dr. Adhir Shroff, associate professor of cardiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and physician at UI Health.
In the new, minimally invasive procedure, physicians access the heart through a vein in the leg and implant a device that permanently seals off a small section of the heart in which clots form and enter the bloodstream.
“With this new treatment, we are able to help an increasing number of patients reduce their risk of stroke from AFib and experience a profound improvement in their quality of life,” said Dr. Henry Huang, assistant clinical professor of cardiology at UIC and physician at UI Health, who leads the UIC team implanting the devices.
Patients are able to return home and resume normal activity the next day and are not limited by the lifestyle and dietary restrictions that blood-thinning medications require.
Huang notes that the patients most likely to benefit from this treatment are the frail, the elderly, those with other conditions, and those whose professions or lifestyle make them poor candidates for blood-thinning medications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that anywhere from 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation and that the condition contributes to approximately 130,000 deaths each year. With the aging of the population, the CDC expects the number of cases to increase.
For more information about the department of cardiology at UI health visit: hospital.uillinois.edu.
By Jacqueline Carey