Like the appendix, it’s unclear if there’s a purpose to the left atrial appendage, a small pouch in the top left chamber of the heart. But for people with a common heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AFib), it can be deadly.
AFib leads to an irregular heartbeat, which can cause blood to pool in the heart and form clots. A clot could then travel to the brain where it might block blood flow, causing a stroke. Many strokes in AFib patients are caused by clots that form in the left atrial appendage and escape into the bloodstream.
Sharp Memorial Hospital is the first hospital west of the Mississippi River to implant an investigational device designed to keep clots from forming in this pocket. The device, called the Amplatzer™ Amulet™, will eventually be tested by 100 hospitals across the nation as part of a clinical trial.
If ultimately approved, the device would offer doctors another option for blocking the left atrial appendage and getting their patients off blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, which can increase the risk of serious bleeding.
“Every heart is shaped a little differently,” says Dr. Raghava Gollapudi, an interventional cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial. “The Amulet device is designed to fit in varying anatomies, so even more patients would be candidates for this treatment option.”
The Amulet, which has been approved for use in Europe since 2013, is inserted via a catheter into the heart through a major vein near the groin. Once inside the left atrium, a doctor is able to open the device like an umbrella, blocking blood from entering the left atrial appendage — and preventing clots from escaping.
Donna Rose, 85, became the first patient to receive the Amulet at Sharp Memorial. She had previously taken blood thinners to control her risk of stroke, but suffered a serious gastrointestinal bleed. The new device will allow Rose to stop taking the most risky blood-thinning medications.
Rose is one of about 5 million Americans with AFib, a number expected to rise to 12 million by 2030.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Gollapudi about the Amulet device to prevent stroke for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.