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Medical and Surgical Solutions Help AFib Patients Avoid Stroke

Technological advancements are increasing quality of life for patients

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (September 6, 2019) – Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common heart rhythm disorder that affects the lives of up to 2.7 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). 

Under normal circumstances, a person’s heart pumps blood from the upper atria to the lower ventricles through regular, consistent rhythms. However, when Atrial fibrillation occurs, a person’s atria beat irregularly, which can cause the blood to pool and potentially clot – placing a person at risk for stroke if a clot enters the blood stream.

“People experiencing AFib generally experience symptoms such as palpitations or shortness of breath,” said, Sandeep Gupta, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with Middletown Cardiology Associates. “People who are at risk include the elderly, those with high blood pressure, or people with coronary artery or valvular heart disease. Then there are non-cardiac risk factors that include thyroid disorders or even genetics. We now believe that about 25 percent of all AFib cases are genetically related.”

Once it’s detected, AFib is usually treated with a combination of medications that are designed to control the heart’s pace and rhythm. Additionally, AFib patients are prescribed blood thinning medications since they are at a higher risk of stroke. Though AFib’s symptoms certainly have a negative impact on someone’s health and quality of life, adjusting to these medications can take their own toll as well.

“AFib symptoms are life-altering, but then you also have to deal with all the medications, blood thinners, monitoring and there are hospitalizations if your heart rate's either too fast or too slow,” said Dr. Gupta, who practices with Premier Physician Network.

However, in 2017, Premier Health became the first hospital system in Southwest Ohio to offer an advanced catheter-based procedure as an important alternative for patients affected by AFib. This one-time procedure helps reduce the risk of a stroke related to AFib for a lifetime by implanting a permanent device called the Watchman™ into the heart’s left atrial appendage (LAA) where stroke-causing blood clots are formed. Watchman is a mechanical device about the size of a quarter. Once inserted, it expands like an umbrella to seal off the LAA from the person's circulatory system.

“One of the great benefits of Watchman is not only that it prevents the risk of future strokes for people with AFib, but it gives them freedom from taking blood thinning medications,” Dr. Gupta said.  “We have been able to offer Watchman to patients who are having difficulty tolerating these medications because of internal bleeding risks.”

The Watchman device is not for everyone, but Dr. Gupta encourages those who have been diagnosed with AFib to speak with their doctor to learn more about their treatment options. 

Scheduling annual wellness visits is also important as people age since AFib may be detected even if a person is not currently symptomatic. Doctors might even recommend certain lifestyle changes for those who might not have received an AFib diagnosis but are at greater risk because of family history, age, or other factors.  These changes may include weight loss strategies, increased exercise, lowering blood sugar, limiting alcohol, lowering blood pressure, managing stress, and smoking cessation.      

Under the direction of Dr. Gupta, Middletown Cardiology Associates offers an AFib clinic that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of AFib. The clinic is located inside their main office and offers patients convenient, personalized care that is easy to assess. For more information about AFib or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit www.PremierPhysicianNet.com.

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