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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Clot catcher cuts stroke risk
By Pat Hagan
In Chicago

Heart monitor
Abnormal heart rhythms are linked to stroke
A special 'plug' that catches blood clots before they have a chance to reach the brain could help reduce the risk of stroke.

The device is implanted in the heart of patients who have a condition called atrial fibrillation - abnormal heart rhythms that dramatically increase the risk of stroke.

Doctors attach the acorn-shaped gadget to the part of the heart where clots often originate, where it seals off the route to the brain.

Researchers who have been testing the device said it could offer hoper to the many atrial fibrillation sufferers who are at very high of stroke but are unable to tolerate warfarin - the anticoagulant drug used to thin blood.

Warfarin is highly toxic in the wrong dose and patients need to be closely monitored to make sure there is not too much in their blood.

It just catches the clot
Dr Peter Block
Researcher Dr Peter Block, from the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said: "This could be a new therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation.

"There were no adverse events and there seems to be a reduction in stroke. It just catches the clot."

Common cause

Atrial fibrillation is a common ailment where abnormalities in heart rhythm increase the dangers of clots forming in the heart and making their way to the brain - causing a stroke.

For years, doctors have used warfarin to control clots but the drug is difficult to manage and many patients are unable to tolerate it.

The new device, called percutaneous left atrial appendage transcatheter occlusion - or PLAATO for short - could be the solution.

It comes in the form of a tiny, collapsible metal cage covered with a membrane.

The device is fitted to the end of a catheter and fed through the body until it reaches the left atrial appendage - a tiny chamber within the heart where 90% of strokes caused by atrial fibrillation begin.

The plug is then expanded and tugged gently so that tiny hooks embed themselves in the surrounding tissue - effectively sealing off the exit.

If a clot does form, it is then 'captured' in the device before it can make its way to the brain.

So far, more than 50 patients have had the implant fitted - mostly in Europe - and results suggest it is safe and effective.

Dr Block said the beauty of the device is it can be withdrawn if it does not fit properly.

"It just collapses and we pull it out. We are optimistic this is a good treatment for those patients who are not good candidates for anticoagulation."

The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in Chicago.

Stress link to fatal strokes
23 Mar 03  |  Health
Implant could cut stroke risk
08 Apr 02  |  Health

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