Medical Moment: Amulet for AFib

Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 8:53 PM EST
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You may have atrial fibrillation (AFib) and not even know it.

Your heart beats over 100,000 times a day, pumping one-and-a-half gallons of blood every minute.

If your heart speeds up, skips beats, or feels like it’s banging against your chest, that could be a sign of AFib, and it could put you at risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.

Now, a new, FDA-approved device may get hearts back in rhythm for the first time without drugs and without surgery.

The first time Doug Dixon experienced AFib, his heart went into an irregular heartbeat for 17 minutes. He found out when his pacemaker alerted his doctor. When this happened, Doug was at risk for a stroke.

“That’s the biggest scare,” says Dr. Ruby Satpathy, interventional cardiologist at Baptist Health. “People are scared, they would rather die than have a stroke.”

Satpathy was one of the first to use a new FDA device designed to treat patients who cannot use blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke. The amulet, LAA Occluder, uses a minimally invasive procedure to seal the left atrial appendage.

“Our heart has a little appendix, just like appendix in the belly,” Satpathy says. “It’s a little pouch. That’s where blood gets in there, doesn’t move, forms clot and it goes up next time to brain causes stroke.”

The amulet is a permanent implant that is placed in a patient’s left atrial appendage, or LAA, which is a pouch-like part of the heart. It’s like two doors being locked, preventing blood clots from entering the blood stream.

“This prevents stroke, this reduces or eliminates bleeding because now you’re not on blood thinner, you’re only on baby aspirin,” Satpathy says.

It worked for Doug, and he’s now feeling stronger every day.

“They ask me how I’m doing, I say, ‘Well, I’m still vertical.’ So, that’s what counts,” Doug says.

It does not cure AFib, but it greatly reduces the risk of stroke and bleeding. Patients will still need to monitor their AFib after receiving the device.

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