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Temple Offering Novel Therapy for Patients with Common Heart Condition Who Are Also at High Risk for Stroke

POSTED ON December 01, 2015

Joshua Cooper, MD, FACC, FHRSAtrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common form of heart arrhythmia and, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects an estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people living in the U.S. Temple University Hospital is now offering a new treatment option to patients with atrial fibrillation who are also at high risk for stroke.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when an irregular electrical pattern in the heart causes the upper chambers (called the atria) to fibrillate, or quiver, very fast and irregularly. Atrial fibrillation causes poor blood flow in the top half of the heart and can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related problems.

The most common treatment for stroke risk reduction in patients with AF is a blood-thinning medication (also known as "anticoagulants"). However, this may not be the best method for all patients with AF.

"There are patients with atrial fibrillation who are at high risk for stroke that may not be able to safely take long-term anticoagulant medication due to a significant risk for bleeding complications," explained Joshua Cooper, MD, FACC, FHRS, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Temple University Hospital, and Professor of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. "Now there is a new device available to treat these types of patients."

Temple recently began offering the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device, which is designed to lower the stroke risk for AF patients and replace the need for anticoagulant therapy in those patients who are not able to take a long-term blood thinner. The device is a catheter-delivered heart implant which permanently closes off the left atrial appendage, or LAA.

The LAA is a small, thin sac located in the left atrium (top left chamber of the heart). When an AF patient’s heart doesn’t properly pump out blood from the atria, blood collects and can form clots in the LAA that could break free and enter the blood stream, possibly causing a stroke. The WATCHMAN Device is designed to prevent that from happening.

The WATCHMAN Device is about the size of a quarter and is implanted under general anesthesia using a catheter inserted through a vein in the leg. Once the device is implanted it is not visible outside the body. Patients typically stay in the hospital for one night after the procedure.

"This new piece of technology will allow us to treat a challenging group of patients at Temple with atrial fibrillation who are at risk for stroke and have a high bleeding risk," said Dr. Cooper. "We just performed our first successful procedure and I anticipate we will similarly treat a growing number of patients for whom this treatment is the best option to reduce the long-term risks of stroke and bleeding. The Temple Heart and Vascular Institute is a leader in providing the very latest advances in cardiovascular care and we are happy to be able to offer this new option to our patients."

Editor's Note: Neither Dr. Cooper nor any members of his immediate family has financial interest in the Boston Scientific Corporation, manufacturer of the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device.