Grand Rapids (WZZM) - A relatively new procedure done in Grand Rapids can help protect certain heart patients from having a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, is one of the most common cardiac irregularities. Approximately six million American adults have been diagnosed with it.
Those patients have a higher risk of stroke. In fact, one quarter of all strokes in the elderly are attributed to atrial fibrillation.
Doctors at Spectrum Health's Meijer Heart Center are using a new procedure with a device called the LARIAT Suture Delivery Device to reduce that risk.
It's a minimally invasive surgery that prevents clots that form in the heart from getting out of the heart and going to the brain.
Doctor Bohuslav Finta performed Spectrum Health's first Lariat procedure with interventional cardiologist Doctor Paul Singh.
"This procedure is a safe alternative for AFib patients at high risk of stroke who can't be on blood thinners," said Dr. Finta.
The procedure works as a lasso that stops the flow of blood to the area of the heart where blood clots form in AFib patients.
The procedure is done while the patient is under general anesthesia. Doctors guide two catheters into the heart to tie off and seal the specific portion of the heart.
While it is too early to know if this procedure will become a new standard of care, Dr. Finta says it will become a common procedure.
"We expect many patients who currently have to take blood thinners would choose it for convenience," he said. "For many patients who cannot take blood thinners right now, this is going to be the only option."
Spectrum Health is the first hospital in West Michigan to use the lariat procedure.