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.
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“I haven’t been shopping in a mall in a year or two,” Rochman said.
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.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta are enrolling patients for the aMAZE trial, which could help Rochman.
Dr. David Engelman, cardiologist at Medical City Las Colinas, has researched the trial.
"Using a special surgical technique in the aMAZE trial, they're able to go in and close off the left atrial appendage, which is a part of the atrium which contributes to people's atrial fibrillation," said Engelman.
Using a device called a lariat, doctors go through a small needle stuck under the rib cage, loop around a tiny portion of the heart and with the push of a button, cinch it off.
"By closing that off, hopefully it will stop or abort and decrease the chances of further AFib," said Engelman.
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.