MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new heart device made by a Minnesota company could help patients reduce their risk for dangerous clots, and get them off blood thinners for good.

Millions of Americans across the country suffer from a disorder of the heart’s rhythm called atrial fibrillation, or AF.

Up until now, the only way these patients could prevent a possible stroke was through blood thinners.

For 69-year-old Ruby Engelhaupt, a quick walk to the bed was all it took to wear her out.

“It was like I ran for two miles and then tried to go to bed,” Engelhaupt said.

Fast heart beat and shortness of breath are two of the symptoms commonly found in people who suffer from AF.

“It was kind of scary,” she said.

Engelhaupt says frequent trips to the clinic to check her blood’s consistency were a hassle, and she disliked how easily she bled and bruised while taking blood thinners.

“If I’m sewing a button on, ouch, you know,” she said.

Dr. Carmelo Pannetta with HealthEast St. Joseph’s was able to help Engelhaupt get off blood thinners once and for all. He installed a cardiac plug in Engelhaupt’s heart, made by St. Jude Medical.

“This is a paradigm shift,” Dr. Pannetta said. “When the heart is in atrial fibrillation, it doesn’t contract in an organized fashion, it just quivers. Consequently, it’s at a high risk for forming blood clots,”

A minimally-invasive procedure performed in a cath lab allows doctors to place a plug inside the chamber.

A wire goes into the left-atrial appendage, and then the plug expands, blocking the entry way to the appendage.

“Sealing it off, scar tissue will form to prevent any clots from forming that could potentially break off and cause a stroke,” he said.

Strokes are caused when the blood clot travels to the brain. The procedure helps to minimize the chances of a stroke, and that meant relief for Engelhaupt.

“I’m glad I did this,” she said.

Boston Scientific, another company with a large base in Minnesota, has a similar device that could be on the market as early as spring of 2014.

St. Jude Medical is still looking to enroll patients in the trial.


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