New for irregular heartbeat

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,” Jan said.
For Jan, 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.
“By the time I saw Dr. Hoskins it was over 90 percent of the time," Jan explained.
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.
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, Jan’s heart is back in rhythm. She plans to spend her spring and summer outdoors.
“Gardening, walking, traveling, the usual things retired people do,” she said.
Some of the patients in the AMAZE trial are treated with the Lariat and ablation while some patients receive just ablation. UPMC in Pittsburgh is one of more  than 30 medical centers nationwide are taking part in the study.

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