New way to lasso stroke risk

The Joel E. Smilow Heart Institute Electrophysiology team at Bridgeport Hospital performed its first Lariat procedure Nov. 25 to prevent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib). The minimally invasive procedure involves closing off the left atrial appendage of the heart (LAA) with a lasso suture. The first patient was a 79-year-old woman from Milford who was discharged just two days after the procedure.

The LAA is a small pouch on the left atrium of the heart. During AFib, the irregular rhythm of the heart causes blood to pool in the LAA, which allows clots to form. The LAA is responsible for approximately 95 percent of the clots that cause strokes in patients with AFib.

Patients with AFib are often prescribed blood-thinning medication to reduce the likelihood of clots forming. For those unable to tolerate blood thinners, the Lariat procedure offers a highly effective alternate treatment.

During the Lariat procedure, cardiologists use a delivery device to guide a small, pre-tied lasso suture to the LAA. The suture is tightened around the base of the LAA, permanently sealing it off from the rest of the heart. Once the LAA is sealed, blood continues to flow normally to the rest of the heart.

The procedure results in minimal discomfort to patients and helps them avoid open-heart surgery. In addition, patients do not require the frequent medical visits and blood tests they would require if they were on blood thinners.