Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat where your heart beats significantly faster than normal. Because of this, blood isn’t able to move properly through the heart, which can increase one’s risk of stroke, congestive heart failure or other heart-related complications. AFib may also cause chronic fatigue.

AFib is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm and is found in about 1 percent of the population. The likelihood of AFib increases with age and symptoms include irregular pulse, shortness of breath, fatigue (especially when exercising), heart palpitations, lightheadedness and chest pain.

Nearly one out of three AFib patients will have a stroke. There are multiple treatment options for AFib, including blood-thinning medications to prevent blood clots, non-surgical procedures (such as radiofrequency ablation or catheter ablation) and surgical methods (such as pacemakers and the open-heart maze procedure).

Implant procedure to treat abnormal heart rhythm

Rose Medical Center is one of the first hospitals in Colorado to offer the implant procedure to treat abnormal heart rhythm—a new, innovative treatment option that reduces the risk of stroke for patients with AFib. This minimally-invasive procedure may also eliminate the need for blood thinners in patients with non-valvular AFib (irregular heartbeat not caused by a fault in the heart valves).

For patients whose doctors have considered them suitable candidates for warfarin (a blood-thinner used to prevent blood clots), the implant could be an alternative treatment option. Blood thinners affect the entire body and can have adverse side effects.

How the implant works

The device is designed to permanently seal off the left atrial appendage (LAA), where blood clots can form in patients with AFib.

At the start of the procedure, the doctor makes a small incision in your upper leg (groin area) and inserts a catheter into a vein. Then, through the catheter the device is advanced to the left side of the heart. Once in the heart, the doctor will release the implant to seal off the appendage.

Benefits of the procedure

The implant procedure does not require open heart surgery. The procedure typically takes about one hour and patients must stay in the hospital for 24 hours following the operation to monitor their recovery.

In most cases, patients are able to discontinue taking blood thinners (like warfarin) within 45 days after their implant procedure. The implant can reduce the risk of stroke and offers patients with non-valvular AFib an alternative to a lifelong use of warfarin.

Patients who might be candidates for the implant

As with any type of treatment for heart-related conditions, not every patient is a candidate for the implant procedure. However, patients might be candidates for this procedure if they:

  • Have non-valvular AFib
  • Are at an increased risk of stroke
  • Have been recommended by a doctor for blood-thinning medications or warfarin
  • Have a medical reason to try a non-drug alternative to treat AFib

For patients with non-valvular AFib who have been taking blood thinners for some time, the implant has the potential to improve their quality of life.

Leaders in treating heart disease and improving heart health

Rose Medical Center and Denver Heart are committed to offering patients the latest, most-advanced treatment options. Our surgical team is dedicated to providing personalized care and helping patients improve their quality of life. Patients with AFib are welcome to consult one of our heart surgeons about the procedure, or talk to your doctor about this new treatment option.