According to the National Institute of Health, afib is the most common form of heart arrhythmia in the US affecting approximately six million individuals. There are many treatments for afib; options to control both heart rates and heart rhythms. These options include heart rate control and anti-arrhythmic medications as well as atrial ablations, a surgical procedure. Nevertheless, about 5% of patients suffer afib-related strokes caused by the formation of blood clots in the heart.
Prevention of strokes in afib patients is a major objective of the medical professionals at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America. We believe it is important to provide a comprehensive approach to afib treatment and stroke-risk management. When we see a patient at our practice, we conduct a complete diagnosis of the patient’s condition and develop an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for that patient. In some cases, this treatment may include the use of a device known as a Watchman device. This instrument is surgically implanted and is designed to help prevent strokes associated with an irregular heartbeat. Afib-related strokes are caused by blood clots forming in the heart and traveling to the brain. This type of stroke is referred to as an embolic type ischemic stroke and often occurs as a result of blood clots forming in an area of the heart known as the left atrial appendage or LAA. An irregular heartbeat can cause blood to pool in this appendage resulting in a stroke-inducing clot.
The left atrial appendage is an extended tubular cavity or protrusion in the left atrial of the heart. Under normal conditions, this cavity fills and empties blood with each pulse and helps with the heart’s overall job. However, when a patient’s heartbeat is irregular, as is the case with afib, blood can ‘pool’ in this appendage and develop into a clot. Should one of these clots break free, it may travel through the circulatory system to the brain and cause a stroke. A Watchman device may be implanted in the heart to reduce the chance of a clot leaving the LAA.
The Watchman device is a round, umbrella-like appliance that is surgically implanted at the entrance of the left atrial appendage. The apparatus is expanded until it closes off the appendage and acts to catch any blood clots that may try to escape into the body. The procedure is a one-time surgical implantation and, once the device is in place, it can serve as long-term management for stroke risk.
The physicians and staff at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America are extremely knowledgeable and highly skilled in all methods of afib diagnosis and treatment including use of the Watchman device. The risks of afib increases with age and, in many cases, can be serious. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include a racing or irregular heartbeat or the feeling your heart is ‘flopping’ over. If you believe you have afib or feel there is something not quite right with your pulse, you should seek a consultation with one of our physicians at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America. We specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of heart arrhythmias, including afib, and carrying out any needed stroke-risk management. If you are outside the Houston area, our staff will be glad to assist you with travel arrangements. Please give our office a call to arrange an appointment or for general questions, (832) 478-5067.