Finding Closure: New Heart Device Reduces Stroke Risk

Lexington Medical Center is the first hospital in South Carolina to use a brand new device proven to reduce the risk of stroke in a substantial number of patients.
           

The Amplatzer PFO Occluder device by St. Jude Medical is for patients who have a small hole in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). About 25 to 30 percent of Americans have a PFO.

Typically, it causes no health problems and does not require treatment. But in some cases, clots can form in the veins, use the PFO to get into the arteries, and cause a stroke.

Patients who have suffered a stroke because of a PFO have an increased risk of experiencing a second stroke. Physicians now use the PFO occluder to close the hole in the heart and reduce the risk of another stroke.

While doctors have been closing PFOs for years, it’s the first time there has been a device with specific emphasis on stroke patients.

Robert Leonardi, MD, FACC, FSCAI

“It’s the first FDA-approved device for stroke reduction,” said Robert Leonardi, MD, FACC, FSCAI of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. “In fact, the stroke reduction rate is estimated to be 50 percent.”

Doctors insert the PFO occluder through a catheter in the femoral vein in the leg. They thread the device through the PFO in the top chambers of the heart, known as the left and right atria.

While doctors can pinpoint the cause of most strokes from risk factors including high blood pressure, narrowed blood vessels, or a blood clot caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, some patients have strokes with a less obvious cause. That’s when doctors investigate the possibility of a PFO, usually discovered through an ultrasound of the heart.

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