Spring 2017

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PATRONS | Sring 2017 12 CLINICAL SPOTLIGHT W hile living with AFib for 26 years, Redondo Beach resident Barbara Hancock never lost hope that she would find an alternative remedy for her chronic disease. At age 79, her persistence paid off. Last October she underwent a procedure on the forefront of AFib treatment—WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) therapy. Atrial Fibrillation (known as AFib) is an abnormal rhythm of the heart caused by a fault in the organ's electrical system. is ultimately causes an irregular heartbeat that is too fast or too slow. is common type of arrhythmia affects more than 5.1 million people in the United States. While the disease itself is not life-threatening, if left unmanaged, it can lead to a stroke or heart failure. In the beginning, living with AFib was tough for Hancock. She could feel a pulse going through her entire body at times when her heart had erratic rhythms. But as the years went on, the surges became unnoticeable. Since her diagnosis in 1991, Hancock had been on blood thinner medications to manage her disease. But side effects included dizziness, which interfered with her ability to be active. Warfarin requires frequent blood testing to check levels so the dose can be adjusted appropriately. As a result, she felt restricted in her ability to travel and make plans. Hancock also lives with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, making her ability to move and exercise not only difficult, but also painful without regular use of over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. However combining these drugs with Warfarin can cause dangerous bleeding. To manage her AFib, Hancock spoke about alternative treatments with her doctor, Gene Kim, MD, a cardiologist who specializes in electrophysiology—the electrical activity of the heart. While many treatments were not appropriate for someone who had lived so long with the disease, she qualified for one therapy in the trial phase. Based on her age, long-term AFib and high-risk factor for stroke, Salman Azam, MD, an interventional cardiologist who would perform the procedure with Dr. Kim, told Hancock she was the ideal candidate for the WATCHMAN procedure. While not a cure for AFib, it could make her life easier. "She was stuck with the option to treat her arthritis or take blood thinners to prevent stroke," said Dr. Azam. So while she chose to prevent stroke, it meant living with disabling pain. Now Hancock and the doctors at Torrance Memorial Medical Center just had to wait for FDA approval. e stroke/AFib connection is complex. For those with the disease, there is a pouch in the left atrium of the heart where blood can pool. After an extended period, blood can then form a clot. If that clot leaves the heart and moves to the brain, a stroke can occur. AFib increases a person's risk of stroke by 500%. It's responsible for 15 out of every 100 strokes. A New Rhythm WATCHMAN procedure grants patients freedom from lifelong blood thinner use WRITTEN BY JACQUELINE RENFROW ILLUSTRATED BY KELSEY ELLIOTT

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