Cardiac plug may help those with atrial fibrillation

This year, half a million people will be told they have atrial fibrillation.

In simple terms, it is an irregular heartbeat.

A-fib can set off a stroke, but now a new device is helping catch these clots before they kill.
Paul Burris is ready for a change.

He says, "I couldn't participate in sports. Even walking became a real painful situation for me."

Mary Burris, Paul’s wife, says, “it really got to be a chore for him as well as for me."

Paul lives with an irregular heartbeat. He took blood thinners to prevent clots, but they also prevented him from enjoying the things he loves, especially his grandchildren.

Paul says, “well mom and dad are always yelling don't do that. You're going to bruise grandpa. You know, he bruises easy."

Then, Paul became one of the first to try out the cardiac plug.

Electrophysiologist Christian Machado, Medical Director at Providence Hospital, is the first heart care expert in the nation to treat patients with it for a new FDA trial.

Dr. Machado says, "It’s almost like a filter, or an umbrella filter, that is deployed in the left atrial appendage, which is the area of the heart that collects clots in patients with atrial fibrillation."

The plug collects any loose clots and reduces the risk of stroke. It has changed Paul’s life.

Paul Burris says, "The biggest part of it is being able to play with my grandchildren. That to me was the greatest gift that they've given me."

Dr. Machado says it has worked in the seven patients he has tried it on, without complications.


REPORT: MB # 3733

BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation, often called A-Fib, is the most common kind of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. It affects close to 500,000 new people every year in the United States. Normally, an electrical signal works its way from the top of the heart to the bottom, causing it to contract and pump blood. But with A-Fib, this rhythm is disrupted. The electrical signal doesn't come from the sinoatrial node, where it normally does, and instead causes the left and right atria to contract irregularly. Blood begins to pool in the atria, and the ventricles, the chambers which hold blood before it exits the heart, don't work in coordination with the atria. This causes blood to be pumped out to the body irregularly. A-Fib can cause a heart to beat 100 to 175 times a minute; a normal heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute. A-Fib can cause stroke, blood clots, or even heart failure. (Source:
CAUSES: The cause of A-Fib is an irregular electrical signal pumping the heart randomly, but what causes the electrical signal is usually hear damage. This kind of damage can come from any of these:
* High blood pressure
* Stimulants like drugs or alcohol
* Heart attacks
* Lung diseases like emphysema
* Congenital heart defects
* Viral infections
* Overactive thyroids
* Sleep apnea
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The AMPLATZER Cardiac Plug (ACP) from St. Jude Medical, Inc. is designed to stop blood clots associated with A-Fib. Clots can cause stroke or become deadly if they travel through the body, known as clot migration, and patients with untreated A-Fib are four to five times more likely to have a stroke. The ACP is an umbrella-like plug inserted into the left atrium in the heart, as 80 to 90 percent of clots originate there. The plug then stops all clots from leaving the heart. The plug is already available in Europe and Asia, but it currently in clinical trials in the United States. (Source:
Christian Machado, MD, FACC
Medical Director of Electrophysiology Services and Arrhythmia Device Clinic Providence Hospital (248) 552-9858

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