ATLANTA. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than five million Americans have atrial fibrillation, or AFib. It’s a condition that causes an irregular heartbeat, greatly increasing the risk of stroke. Researchers are testing a new procedure to see if it is effective in blocking off the small section of tissue responsible for the arrhythmia.
Jan Rochman, 77, buys her pet supplies online. That’s how she makes most purchases these days.
“I haven’t been shopping in a mall in a year or two,” Rochman told Ivanhoe.
For Rochman, it’s a matter of necessity. Lately she’s had a tough time getting around. Early last year, doctors found her heart was seriously out of rhythm.
Rochman detailed, “By the time I saw Dr. Hoskins it was over 90 percent of the time.”
Dr. Michael Hoskins, M.D., is an electrophysiologist at Emory University in Atlanta. He and fellow researchers are enrolling patients for the AMAZE trial.
“The AMAZE trial is designed to look at patients with persistent atrial fibrillation and see if eliminating the left atrial appendage will reduce the amount of atrial fibrillation the patient has,” explained Dr. Hoskins. (Read Full Interview)
Using a device called the Lariat, doctors go through a small needle stick under the ribcage, loop around a tiny portion of the heart and with the push of a button, cinch it off.
“Eventually the left atrial appendage necrosis, or withers away, and it is no longer involved in the generation of the arrhythmia,” detailed Dr. Hoskins.
Doctors want to see if using the Lariat in combination with ablation, burning or freezing the tissue, is better for patients than ablation alone. After treatment, Rochman’s heart is back in rhythm. She plans to spend her spring and summer outdoors.
“Gardening, walking, traveling, the usual things retired people do,” said Rochman.
Some of the patients in the AMAZE trial are treated with the Lariat and ablation while some patients receive just ablation. More than 30 medical centers nationwide are taking part in the study.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS – RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: AMAZE FOR AFIB
REPORT: MB #4239
BACKGROUND: Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular and often rapid heart rate. AFib can exhibit no symptoms or be “occasional”, with symptoms coming and going and eventually stopping on their own. It can be “persistent” where symptoms do not cease on their own, and medication is needed. It can also be “long-standing persistent”, where symptoms last longer than twelve months or it can be “permanent” where the heart rhythm cannot be restored, and medications will be needed to control heart rate. Symptoms include heart palpitations, weakness, reduced ability to exercise, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Abnormalities or damage to the heart’s structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include heart attacks, high blood pressure, abnormal heart valves, previous heart surgery, and viral infections.
TREATMENT: Treatments of AFib aim to restore and maintain a normal the heart rhythm, and to prevent recurrence of the irregular rhythm. These treatments include drugs, electrical cardioversion, catheter ablation (a catheter inserted into the heart delivers waves to stop erratic electrical signals), and surgery. Currently undergoing clinical trials, the Amaze trial is designed to see if eliminating the left atrial appendage (LAA) will reduce AFib. The LAA is a small sac about the size of your thumb that hangs off the left atrium of the heart. Like your appendix, your LAA serves no particular function, but it is a source of electrical activity and may contribute to the abnormal heart rhythm of Afib. Rather than removing the LAA surgically, the Lariat procedure closes it off non-surgically, using a loop of suture material. The Amaze study is being conducted to determine whether the Lariat procedure can help patients with persistent and/or longstanding persistent Afib when done in addition to catheter ablation. Patients in the study will be divided into two groups. Each group will receive one of the following treatments: closing the left atrial appendage with the LARIAT procedure, followed by catheter ablation or catheter ablation only.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: AFib may increase chances of sudden cardiac death. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis followed two groups of people, 15,000 people between 45-65, and 5,000 people 65 and older. People with AFib in the younger group had more than three times the risk of sudden cardiac death than their peers and people with AFib in the older age group had more than double the risk of sudden cardiac death than their peers.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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