Tennova Healthcare is among the first in Tennessee to offer a one-time procedure that may reduce stroke risk in people with atrial fibrillation (AFib) not caused by a heart valve problem, also known as non-valvular atrial fibrillation.    The Tennova Heart team successfully performed its first four left atrial appendage closure implant procedures on January 23, 2019 at Turkey Creek Medical Center. Additional procedures are scheduled for this week.

TOP PHOTO:  Left to right: Yasir Akhtar, M.D., interventional cardiologist; Nilam Patel, M.D., cardiologist/electrophysiologist; Rashmi Hottigoudar, M.D., cardiologist/electrophysiologist; and Malcolm Foster, M.D., interventional cardiologist.

The FDA-approved device works differently from blood thinners like warfarin by closing off a part of the heart where blood clots commonly form. In clinical trials, 9 out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after getting the permanent device.

Heart specialists who now perform the procedure at Turkey Creek Medical Center include Yasir Akhtar, M.D., interventional cardiologist; Malcolm Foster, M.D., interventional cardiologist; Rashmi Hottigoudar, M.D., cardiologist/electrophysiologist; and Nilam Patel, M.D., cardiologist/electrophysiologist. To ensure optimal patient selection and implant technique, the Tennova Heart team has received extensive training on the new device.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. An estimated five million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation—an irregular heartbeat that feels like quivering or “thumping” in the chest. Additional common symptoms of AFib include general fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, sweating, and chest pain.

“This new implant works by closing off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA, to keep harmful blood clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.”

According to the American Heart Association, about 20 percent of all strokes occur in patients with atrial fibrillation. Further, AFib-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AFib is blood-thinning warfarin medication.

“Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications,” Dr. Foster said. “Nearly half of all AFib patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.”

The left atrial appendage closure implant is the only device of its kind approved by the FDA. The device has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide and is a one-time procedure. It is a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. The procedure takes about one hour; and patients typically stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day. It is covered for eligible Medicare patients who meet certain criteria as well as an increasing number of commercial insurers.

“At Tennova, our patients have access to a dedicated team of more than 30 cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and other heart specialists at multiple locations across the region,” said Tony Benton, chief executive officer for Tennova Healthcare in East Tennessee. “The work they do on a daily basis is nothing short of miraculous. For those of us that have been impacted by heart disease personally or in our families, it’s reassuring to know you’ll find a full spectrum of cardiovascular services—from advanced treatments and testing to research and rehabilitation—right here in Knoxville.”

For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit TennovaMedicalGroup.com.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 02/06/2019-6AM)