UC Davis Offers Stroke-Prevention Alternative for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

MARCH 17, 2016
UC Davis
Cardiologists at UC Davis were the first in the Sacramento region to treat the major risk of stroke that comes with atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common form of arrhythmia, with a new device that blocks blood clots from traveling from the heart to the head.
The tiny, flexible, metal-and-mesh shield known as the Watchman is placed using a catheter at the opening of the left atrial appendage — a small pouch in the upper chamber where blood can pool and clot when the heart beats out of sync.
Because 95 percent of strokes in AFib patients are caused by clots that travel from the left atrial appendage to the narrow vessels in the brain, nearly all patients with the condition are first treated with blood thinners. These medications, however, significantly increase the chances of bleeding disorders and require constant patient oversight.
“Treatments for regulating heart-rhythm problems that occur with AFib are constantly getting better,” said Jason Rogers, director of interventional cardiology at UC Davis Health System. “At the same time, stroke-prevention options beyond anticoagulants haven’t changed much for patients who can’t tolerate these medications.”
Carol Woody was one of those patients.
“When I was hospitalized for bleeding, my doctor and I knew we had to try something else,” Woody said.
The Manteca, Calif., retiree was first diagnosed with AFib seven years ago when she became too tired for even simple, everyday activities.
“The exhaustion was overwhelming,” she said. “There were days when it was really hard to get out of bed.”
While electrical cardioversion, or a low-voltage electric current, helped reset her heart rhythm, she was referred to Rogers, a specialist in catheter-based treatments for heart disease, to address her stroke risk.

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