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New Device Treats Common Heart Rhythm Disorder
Date:3/28/2009

It could replace anti-clotting drug warfarin for many patients, researchers say,,,,

SATURDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- An implanted device may soon replace the anti-clotting drug warfarin as the first line of treatment for many people with atrial fibrillation, a new study suggests.

People with atrial fibrillation have a sixfold increased risk of stroke, the researchers noted, and typically need to take warfarin for the rest of their lives. Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm problem that causes the upper chamber of the heart to beat irregularly.

"One in four people over 50 will develop atrial fibrillation," lead researcher Dr. David R. Holmes Jr., the Scripps Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, said during a morning teleconference at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

About 3 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation, and 16 million Americans will have the condition by 2050, Holmes said. Stroke is the most serious complication related to atrial fibrillation, he noted.

"We know that in those patients with atrial fibrillation that the clot that causes that stroke comes from a certain area of the heart called the left atrial appendage," Holmes said, explaining that the appendage is a muscular pouch connected to the left atrium. "The device isolates the left atrial appendage."

To implant the device, an interventional cardiologist uses a catheter inserted in a leg vein to guide the device into the heart; the device travels through the heart's right chamber and is deposited into the left atrium through a puncture hole between the two chambers of the heart, the researchers explained.

Current treatment with warfarin is effective in preventing strokes caused by clots associated with atrial fibrillation, but its use needs to be monitored monthly to assure patients are receiving the safest and mos
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