Now doctors are experimenting with a new way to prevent those brain attacks: a tiny device that seals off a little section of the jiggling heart where the clots form.
If it works and a major study is under way the Watchman device might provide long-needed protection for thousands of people with atrial fibrillation, whose main hope now is a problematic blood-thinning drug that too many can’t tolerate.
“I don’t think I’m biased, but it could potentially revolutionise a-fib, which is a ton of people,”says Steven Almany, vice chief of cardiology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. He has implanted the Watchman into more than a dozen patients so far.
About 2.8 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It is most common among the elderly, and cases are increasing as the population greys.
A-fib occurs when the heart’s top chambers, called the atria, get out of sync with the bottom chambers’ pumping. The atria speed up, sometimes so fast that they quiver like a bag of worms. Blood pools inside a pocket of the heart, allowing clots to form.
About 20% of the nation’s strokes are blamed on the condition, and they tend to be particularly severe. About a third of the victims die, and another third are significantly disabled.
The blood thinner warfarin, also called Coumadin, lowers the stroke risk dramatically. But it is very difficult to use it can’t be taken together with dozens of other medicines. In addition, side effects include serious, even life-threatening, bleeding.
By some estimates, almost half the people who should take the drug can’t or won’t, and “there are lots of people out there on Coumadin who want off,”says William Gray, a cardiologist studying the Watchman at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center. “This provides the opportunity, hopefully, to get them off the drug.”
In atrial fibrillation, 90% of stroke-causing blood clots collect inside a jalapeno pepper-shaped flap of tissue that hangs off the edge of the left atrium. The Watchman physically seals off that flap, depriving clots of their staging area.
Source:The Times Of India