Rethinking Healthcare

Step aside anti-coagulant meds, new device physically prevents strokes

Step aside anti-coagulant meds, new device physically prevents strokes

Posting in Technology

A new device from Boston Scientific offers an alternative to stroke-preventing drugs. The mesh structure gets inserted into the heart cavity to physically prevent blood clots that cause strokes.

Scientists at Boston Scientific have developed a new heart implant for people at high risk for stroke.

More than 6 million people in the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation, the most common kind of irregular heartbeat, causes a third of all strokes.

Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots in the reservoir of the left atrium of the heart. These clots often block blood vessels, leading to a loss of blood supply to the brain -- an ischemic stroke.

Doctors typically prescribe atrial fibrillation patients with anti-coagulant drugs like Warfarin to prevent strokes. But these drugs come with risky potential side effects, most commonly hemorrhage or severe bleeding.

The new device, the WATCHMAN, offers an alternative to preventing clots pharmacologically.

Shown in a video in The Journal of Visual Experiments, doctors implant the umbrella-shaped nickel titanium net using a catheter. The device prevents blood clots from getting into trouble by trapping them in the reservoir of the left atrium of the heart. That's the area where 90% of clots arise.

The European Union, Australia and Latin America have already approved the WATCHMAN for medical use. The FDA permitted investigational use of the device in 2009, and Boston Scientific is currently running clinical trials to gain full commercial approval in the U.S.

Image: Journal of Visualized Experiments

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure