FRIDAY, Oct. 24, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A simple method that closes the heart's left atrial appendage may help prevent embolisms and strokes in people with a heart rhythm irregularity called atrial fibrillation.
Swiss researchers report the finding in the November issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interverventions.
Researchers used a device called an Amplatzer atrial septal occluder to block the entrance to the left atrial appendage in 16 patients. They say this approach may offer a new alternative to the traditional use of oral anticoagulants in treating people with atrial fibrillation.
Many elderly patients can't or won't take anticoagulant drugs.
"Our initial research shows that closing the left atrial appendage with the Amplatzer technique is an option that yields a satisfactory success rate with reasonable risk," lead author Dr. Bernhard Meier, of the Swiss Cardiovascular Center at University Hospital in Bern, says in a prepared statement.
The left atrial appendage is believed to be responsible for more than 90 percent of embolisms that occur in people with atrial fibrillation.
"So far, no function of this pouch has been documented. In parallel to the little appendage to the colon that causes appendicitis, people would probably be better off if they did not have a left atrial appendage," he says.
The researchers used the Amplatzer device in 16 people, aged 58 to 83. All but one of the patients were able to leave the hospital the day after surgery. During a follow-up of five years, there were no embolic events or other problems among the patients, who took no oral anticoagulants.
Here's where you can learn more about heart rhythm disorders.