Are you one of the millions of Americans living with this common heart condition?

Are you one of the millions of Americans living with this common heart condition?

A new device being tested in a clinical trial at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., could help prevent atrial fibrillation (AFib) episodes in people with the condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, atrial fibrillation causes an irregular heartbeat, a rapid heartbeat or a quivering of the upper chambers of the heart due to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a common source of electrical activity that is often attributed to causing the abnormal heart rhythm. This condition affects about 3–6 million people in the U.S. and has the potential to create other life-threatening conditions like stroke and congestive heart failure.

“People with AFib are four or five times more likely to suffer from a stroke than those who don’t have it,” says Dr. William Spear, a cardiac electrophysiologist and director of the atrial fibrillation ablation program at the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center. “Having high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease are a few of the common risk factors that can lead to AFib. Once diagnosed with AFib, people are commonly treated with blood thinners or surgery to help avoid strokes and long-term heart damage.”

The aMAZE Clinical Trial is studying the potential advantages of using a catheter ablation and a non-surgical LAA closure device called the LARIAT RS 50 Suture Delivery Device for the treatment of persistent and long-standing AFib.

This device is inserted through a minimally-invasive catherization procedure and uses an enlarged suture loop to tighten and close off the LAA where blood clots can develop and move from the heart to the brain, causing a stroke. The isolation of the LAA will potentially reduce its ability to add to the irregular rhythm of the heart.

Dr. Spear recently successfully performed the first non-surgical procedure to close the LAA with the device as part of the FDA approved trial.

“This device enables us to complete a procedure with excellent results that we typically would not have been able to do with a larger LAA without the need for surgery,” says Dr. Spear. “The larger size suture loop broadens our anatomic compatibility to close the LAA and the retractable trap enhances ease of use of the device.”

According to recent data published in the US National Library of Medicine, cases of patients who have persistent AFib provides compelling evidence that sources of AFib are likely located outside of the pulmonary veins, the LAA being one of the most recognized sources for AFib. The objectives of the trial are to determine whether the device will reduce or eliminate these LAA triggers and whether, when combined with the treatment of pulmonary vein isolation ablation, there will be a reduced incidence of recurrent AFib compared to ablation alone.

“The trial is an important study for the field of AFib. We have a good understanding of the role the LAA plays in AFib beyond stroke and to be able to electrically isolate and mechanically close the LAA in a single step could be a breakthrough in the future of AFib standard-of-care,” Dr. Spear says.

To learn more about this study and clinical trials in general, please visit

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Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.