October 4, 2010

Left Atrial Appendage Closure for Patients With Atrial Fibrillation

Posted in New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:26 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Heart left atrial appendage transesophageal ec...

Image via Wikipedia

A new study testing a heart procedure could help prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is a very common and fairly benign abnormal heart rhythm.  It is caused by electrical disturbances in the upper chambers of the heart.  One of the biggest concerns related to atrial fibrillation is the possibility of stroke.  Because the upper heart chambers are not pumping effectively, blood has a tendency to “pool” into a small ear-shaped section of the heart called the left atrial appendage.  If blood sits in the left atrial appendage for too long, a clot is formed which can then travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

A new study has been testing the possibility of closing off the left atrial appendage as a means of preventing clot formation.  The device is called a Watchman occluder and it is put during a simple heart catheterization.  No large cuts or general anesthesia required!  Once the device is in place, a person could eventually stop taking Coumadin or warfarin.  The Watchman device cuts the risk of stroke without having to use medication.

The trials are ongoing so you can’t find this device in your general cardiologist’s office yet.  As the device is studied more and proven safe for everyone it may become available to the standard atrial fibrillation patient.  Between this and the new Coumadin alternative (dabagatran), we may be seeing the end of Coumadin once and for all!

September 24, 2010

Cardiology On The Verge Of Technological Change

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:16 am by keepyourhearthealthy

GIF-animation showing a moving echocardiogram;...

Image of echocardiogram of heart via Wikipedia

People with heart disease have been on the look-out for newer treatments over the past several years.

It had seemed that cardiology was stagnant for awhile and many patients started to turn to alternative treatments just to see their options.  For the most part, there have been very few monumental advances in heart disease treatment since the development of stents 20+ years ago.

This week has been eye-opening for those patients looking to new treatment options.  Several studies have been reported at various cardiology conferences that could finally lead to some new monumental heart treatments.  The most promising ones are:

  1. Placement of New Heart Valves by Heart Catheterization
  2. Robotically Assisted Ballon Angioplasty and Stent Placement
  3. Left Atrial Appendage Closure for Patients With Atrial Fibrillation
  4. Self-Injections of Nesiritide Improves Function of Heart in Heart Failure

All of these new studies have the potential to bring about major changes in heart disease management.  For people with previously untreated aortic stenosis, they can get a new heart valve put in through a simple needle stick during a heart catheterization.  Cardiologists can provide more efficient care with robotically assisted balloon angioplasty and stenting.  Patients with atrial fibrillation may be able to go off of their Coumadin or other blood thinner if they have a left atrial appendage closure.  Heart failure patients could feel significantly better and avoid hospital stays by giving themselves shots of a heart failure drug at home.

Over the next week I will update you about each of these promising new treatments specifically so check out the upcoming posts for more info!

May 29, 2010

New Technology To View Heart Arteries May Result in Fewer Stents

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:34 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

The latest and greatest in viewing the heart arteries by heart catheterization technology was cleared by the FDA earlier this week.  The new system made by LightLab is the first type of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to be sold to hospitals for use during stenting procedures.

Traditionally, a heart catheterization is an invasive procedure which requires a small wire to be guided up an arm or leg artery to the heart for injection of dye into the heart arteries.  An x-ray would then show pictures of the dye in the arteries and cardiologists would look for kinks that would mean blockages.  This type of artery viewing has several problems since it does not show the artery walls where plaque could be hiding.  The next step in technology used ultrasound on the tip of the wire to be able to view the artery walls.  This procedure is called IVUS (IntraVascular UltraSound).  IVUS is currently a preferred method when there are suspicious and difficult areas of the arteries.

With LightLab’s new OCT technology, almost no radiation is used.  Instead the device delivers “near-infrared light” to the tissue inside the artery and then measures the reflected light.  The images are reportedly some of the best you can expect during a heart catheterization.  The picture seen below can be viewed on the LightLab website along with several others as a demonstration of their quality pictures. You can see the outline of the artery and then the plaque that extends into the vessel.  With such clarity, experts are hoping that fewer stents will be needed to cover the plaque since cardiologists will know the exact areas and sizes of the plaque burden.