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St. Mary Cardiac Surgeon Uses New Device to Treat Atrial Fibrillation
AtriClip used in surgery to treat life-threatening heart disorder.

LANGHORNE, Pa., September 21, 2010 – St. Mary Medical Center Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Todd Nixon is among the first surgeons nationwide to use a newly approved device to protect patients from complications related to atrial fibrillation. AtriCure’s AtriClip Left Atrial Appendage Exclusion system, recently approved by the FDA, is designed for use in surgery to prevent blood from pooling and clotting in the heart with the potential to cause a stroke or heart attack.

Atrial fibrillation, a potentially life-threatening heart disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans, occurs when the heart’s two small upper chambers – the atrial – beat rapidly and ineffectively. When it occurs, blood is not pumped completely out of the chambers and can pool inside the left atrial appendage, causing blood clots that can enter the blood stream and travel to other parts of the body. The AtriClip is designed to block the left atrial appendage, a small sac attached to the upper left chamber of the heart where blood can pool during atrial fibrillation.

“The AtriClip allows surgeons to effectively circumvent a life-threatening occurrence in patients with atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Nixon. “The device is implanted from outside the heart, and eliminates blood flow between the atria and left atrial appendage.”

The AtriClip is approved for use during open heart surgeries. The surgeon places the rectangular-shaped device around the left atrial appendage and then closes the device, much like a clamp shuts off blood supply. The AtriClip is the first device of this type to be approved by the FDA for use in the United States. The AtriClip may be used with a Maze procedure, or surgical intervention, to correct atrial fibrillation that is performed in conjunction with open heart surgery to clear blocked arteries in the heart (CABG) or to repair heart valves.

St. Mary also offers radiofrequency ablation as a treatment for atrial fibrillation. This is a minimally invasive procedure performed in the Electrophysiology Labs at St. Mary by an interventional electrophysiologist.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia). Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) reduce the overall efficiency of the heart and may put people at greater risk for heart failure or stroke. An improvement in quality of life can be one of the most noticeable benefits of restoring normal heart rhythm.