Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common medical condition involving an irregular heart rhythm, known as an arrhythmia, which affects approximately 350,000 Canadians and over 2.5 million Americans. The burden of this disease is expected to increase substantially with an estimated 16 million Americans expected to have AF by 2050. AF is of clinical importance as the rate of stroke is five times higher in patients with AF. Not only is the stroke rate higher in patients with AF, but AF strokes are also more debilitating and potentially fatal.
The majority of strokes that take place in patients with AF are thought to be the result of a blood clot, or thrombosis formation, within the left atrial appendage (LAA). The most common approach to reduce AF related strokes is to prescribe oral anticoagulation (OAC), which reduces the formation of clots. There are several downsides related to the use of OAC, such as; the need for regular monitoring of blood samples, drug-drug and drug-food interactions, and the risk of life threatening bleeding. The drawbacks associated with OACs deter many patients from using them, and thus these patients continue to have a high risk of stroke.
While OAC therapy aims to reduce the formation of clots within the LAA, removal of the LAA from the blood circulation may prevent LAA clot formation in the first place, thus potentially eliminating the need for patients to continue to take OAC.
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