UIHC-logoThe University of Iowa’s Heart and Vascular Center will become the first facility in the state to offer a just-approved procedure that promises to cut the risk of stroke in patients with an irregular heartbeat. People with atrial fibrillation now take blood thinners to prevent stroke.

U-I cardiologist Phillip Horwitz says plugging the left atrium of the heart with an umbrella-like device can reduce that risk and patients can quit taking the meds. “We’re able to put a device in, called the Watchman device, to plug this out-pouching of the left atrium,” doctor Horwitz says. “This prevents any clots that would form in that area from getting into the rest of the heart and out into the bloodstream to cause strokes.”

He says performing the procedure starts with making a very small hole in the leg just a few millimeters wide so small tubes can be inserted. “These catheters are guided up under X-ray guidance and special ultrasound guidance and the device is put into place,” Horwitz says. “At the end, all the catheters are pulled out and the patient who underwent it is left with just a little hole in the vein in their leg.”

The first procedure will likely take place later this month at the Iowa City hospital.

(Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)