Southside Hospital recently became the first hospital on Long Island to perform an innovative procedure that doctors said should reduce the chance of stroke in patients with an abnormal heart rhythm.
Earlier this month, Erik Altman, MD, and Trevor Verga, MD, performed the Lariat procedure on Arthur Prevete, 71, of Port Jefferson Station. The catheter-based operation uses sutures to tie off the left atrial appendage (LAA), which can be a major source of blood clots that may lead to stroke in patients with an abnormal heart rhythm.
An abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation, is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and can result in palpitations, chest discomfort and shortness of breath. It is also known to be associated with increased risk of stroke with the LAA being the main source of those strokes.
“The LAA is the blind sack that extends from one of the top chambers of the heart,” said Verga. “It is sort of like an appendix; it serves no real purpose other than the ability to cause a lot of trouble.”
In atrial fibrillation, the LAA stops contracting and the stationary blood inside can turn into a clot. If pieces of the clot break off, they can be pumped to the brain and cause a blockage of the blood vessels resulting in stroke.
According to Altman, the Lariat works like a lasso that goes around the LAA and stops the flow of blood to the area where clots form, reducing the chance of stroke from atrial fibrillation.
“This procedure significantly reduces the possibility of that type of stroke from occurring in the area of the heart that we are able to tie off from outside of the heart,” he said.
In Prevete’s case, he was at high-risk for a stroke from atrial fibrillation and was on blood thinners to reduce the risk. Following the procedure, he will no longer need to take the blood thinners and deal with their side effects, doctors said.