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Reducing Stroke Risk in AFib Patients Permanently



Approximately five years ago, Elayne Finke’s heart began to beat in a new rhythm. It wasn’t one that the 73-year-old asked for, but she and nearly 3 million others deal with this heart condition every day.

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib as it’s also called, is the most common form of arrhythmia and is characterized by an irregular heartbeat – either too fast or too slow. This condition, although common, does have significant health risks – including a significantly higher chance for stroke.

The disruption caused by the irregular beat in Elayne’s heart made it difficult for her heart’s upper and lower chambers to work together, which increased the likelihood of blood to pool and dangerous, life threatening clots to form.

Approximately 95 percent of strokes that occur in patients with Afib stem from blood clots formed in the heart’s left atrial appendage (LAA). One method to help prevent clots from developing is blood-thinning medication.

“I was put on a blood thinner, but I was never really able to find the right dose,” the Slayton, MN, resident says. “I was having issues with bleeding, so I had to come in for frequent blood tests to make sure everything was ok. It was becoming very inconvenient.”

In addition, the increased risk for having a stroke weighed heavily on Elayne’s mind. She wanted another option.

And Sanford Heart Hospitals in Sioux Falls and Fargo provide one – a procedure not available anywhere else in North or South Dakota. This permanent solution would not only eliminate her need for blood-thinning medications, but also reduce her risk of stroke.

The life-saving procedure, known as left atrial appendage occlusion, was suggested to Elayne by her cardiologist, Dr. Marian Petrasko. The tool Sanford’s team uses to perform the minimally invasive procedure is the LARIAT® Suture Delivery Device.

“When I learned about LARIAT®, I was very excited about the possibilities,” Elayne says. “I was eager to have the procedure done – for my peace of mind and my quality of life.”

Through the use of catheters, Dr. Tom Stys, an interventional cardiologist with specialized training to perform the LARIAT® procedure, successfully closed Elayne’s LAA. This blocked the potential stroke-causing blood clots from traveling to her brain. Another benefit for Elayne was that no metal, clip or implant was left behind.

“The procedure, which is a collaborative effort from our entire team, takes approximately an hour, and was all performed through catheterization,” Dr. Stys says. “This is such a great option for anyone with atrial fibrillation who can not take blood thinners.”

Now Elayne is able to enjoy her life more freely. She breathes a little easier knowing her stroke risk as been permanently reduced.

In addition, she is no longer required to take a blood thinner, which means the complications she faced with taking the medication is also gone. She only requires routine follow up at this point, instead of the continuous trips for blood tests.

“I have told a lot of my friends and family who have a similar condition as mine about this procedure,” she says. “This was the simplest procedure I’ve ever had done. I would recommend it to anyone who could benefit. It’s definitely worth it to ask your doctor about the procedure.”

Posted Date: February 2014

Reducing Stroke Risk in AFib Patients Permanently

When Elaine Finke discovered blood thinners weren’t a good option for her atrial fibrillation, she was relieved to have another choice – available only at Sanford Heart Hospital.