Features October 2007 Issue

Hope Emerges on Multiple Fronts to Control Atrial Fibrillation

New medications and interventions are being developed to stop one of the leading causes of stroke. Treatments include freezing harmful tissue with catheter ablation.

Cleveland Clinic heart surgeon Marc Gillinov, MD, hopes to put a stop to strokes, especially those starting in a part of the heart we could live without. The left atrial appendage, a small flap of tissue in the left atrium that is unnecessary in the healthy functioning of the heart, is only given a thought when there’s a problem and it must be treated. In patients with atrial fibrillation—in which the heart’s upper two chambers quiver instead of beat effectively, so not all of the blood is pumped out of the chambers—blood flow from the left atrial appendage is usually poor and clots can easily form.

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