CLEVELAND - Michael Piwkowski has had atrial fibrillation since he was in his early 30s. It never bothered him, but because of it, he has a one in four chance of suffering a stroke.
Doctors at MetroHealth Medical Center performed a new procedure, called the Lariat procedure, which has significantly lowered that risk.
"You never know when you're going to go, but I feel like I've got a better chance of making it to 70 now than I did before," said Piwkowski, 62.
In patients with atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythm, stroke-causing clots form in the left atrial appendage.
The Lariat procedure involves a system of catheters and wires that work together to deliver a suture to the left atrial appendage, closing it off so that blood cannot enter and clots cannot form.
According to Dr. Ohad Ziv, more than 2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, but thousands cannot take blood thinners because of serious bleeding complications.
"When you're living with a 4 percent to 5 percent risk of stroke every year and you're looking at 4, 5, 6, 10 years, hopefully 20 years down the road, that's a lot of risk to live with," Ziv said. "So this is really a game changer for these patients."