Atrial fibrillation: what you need to know

Treatments vary depending on a patient's symptoms and stroke risk

September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness MonthStethoscope and heart ECG

Atrial fibrillation (“a-tree-uhl fih-bruh-lay-shun”), or A-fib, is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper portion (atria) of the heart. A-fib affects more than 5 million Americans and is the most common arrhythmia that leads to hospitalization. A-fib is the leading cause of stroke and is associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality. During A-fib, the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and erratically in a chaotic way without any effective muscle contraction. A-fib may develop as a result of changes in the heart due to age. Hypertension (high blood pressure), valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, over-activity of the thyroid gland or excessive alcohol intake may promote A-fib. There can also be a genetic component. Continue reading

Mitral valve repair vs replacement

“Repair is always better”

Perry - 3 450x320

U-M patient Perry Katsiskas believes she made the right decision in choosing to have her mitral valve repaired versus a future replacement.

Panorea (Perry) Katsiskas’ mitral valve disease didn’t slow her down. A daily exerciser, she lived an active life, relatively free of symptoms. But Perry, like many of the millions of Americans diagnosed with a degenerative version of the disease, was faced with a decision: mitral valve repair vs replacement. In other words, should she have her mitral valve repaired now or wait until her condition required complete valve replacement?

Under the care and counsel of Dr. Francis D. Pagani, surgical director of the U-M Adult Heart Transplant Program and director of the Center for Circulatory Support, Perry chose to have her valve repaired. “Dr. Pagani explained that if and when I experienced symptoms, it would likely be too late,” she says.

“I came in feeling healthy, had surgery and went home feeling healthier,” says Perry. “I felt Dr. Pagani cared about me and my outcome. And the outcome speaks for itself. Early intervention saved the quality of my life.” Continue reading

Heart transplants: The ultimate gift of life

David Parker inspires others in the fight for their life

Since 1984, The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Heart Transplant Program has performed more than 900 heart transplants, as well as implanting more than 500 ventricular assist devices (VADs) — most as a way to “bridge” patients to transplant. The U-M team also provides the multidisciplinary care required for complex transplant patients and includes specialists in advanced circulatory support, cardiac critical care, nutrition and social work.

This closely integrated team of cardiac transplant surgeons and transplant cardiologists is highly skilled in treating and implanting donor hearts in patients with the most urgent cardiac needs. U-M’s high volume, vast experience and active research program makes it a leader in heart transplant surgeries.

U-M patient David Parker received a new heart in December 2012. Today, he is living a full, active life that includes walking three miles, weight training and swimming most days of the week.

David shares his story of courage and his path back to living …

David Parker and his wife, Carol

David Parker and his wife, Carol

“My name is David Parker. I am 64 years old and thankful to the University of Michigan cardiac team for my new life. I first became ill in 2001. I started with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, or afib. I was in and out of the hospital getting ‘cardioverted,’ a procedure in which the heart is shocked back into normal sinus rhythm. After a while, the doctors saw that this was not going to work. So I went to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, where Dr. Hakan Oral and his team performed three ablations. This helped for a period of time, but the afib eventually returned.

I was getting weaker and weaker as time passed. My doctors decided the only thing that would work was a heart transplant. I was put into the hospital to try to build up my strength and was put on the heart transplant list. At this time, my organs were starting to shut down and I was told I was too sick for a heart transplant. My only other option was to have a left ventricle assist device (LVAD) inserted. An LVAD is an electrical pump that attaches to the heart and pumps blood throughout the body. With the LVAD surgery, performed by Dr. Jonathan Haft, my organs started improving. I had the LVAD for 11 months, running on batteries during the day and plugged into a wall outlet at night. During that time, I was put back on the heart transplant list. Continue reading

Heart of a Hunter: Effects of alcohol on the heart

Moderation beats binge drinking during hunting season

Sitting around the campfire and rehashing the day’s hunting feats (or lack of them) often happens with a cold beer or other alcoholic drink in hand. Just be careful not to overdo it.

AlcoholBlogImage.fwConsuming alcohol in moderation, along with an overall healthy lifestyle, is acceptable for most people, says Dr. Michael Shea, who specializes in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease at the University of Michigan Health System. “Too much alcohol can cause direct damage to heart cells as well as nutritional and vitamin deficiencies,” he says.

In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels. Alcohol consumption, and particularly “binge” drinking can also lead to electrical conduction issues in the heart, a condition known as atrial fibrillation or “afib”.

The American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderation in drinking — in any environment. An average of one or two drinks per day is considered moderate for men; one drink per day for women.

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Who takes warfarin?

Medication prescribed to prevent blood clots in A-fib patients and others

Anticoagulants like Coumadin or Jantoven are prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Anticoagulants like Coumadin or Jantoven are prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots.

If you’re taking warfarin, also known as Coumadin® or Jantoven®, your doctor has prescribed this anticoagulation medication to prevent the formation of harmful blood clots or to treat an existing blood clot. Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is a common condition for taking warfarin because the risk of stroke is higher in A-fib patients.

The American Heart Association reports that more than two million Americans have atrial fibrillation, a rhythmic disorder of the heart where the atria (the heart’s pumping chambers) quiver instead of beat. As a result, some blood remains in the heart instead of being pumped out, allowing pools to collect in the heart chamber, where clots may form. These clots can travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

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Atrial fibrillation – what you need to know

Causes, symptoms and treatments of afib vary

red-heart-stethoscopeAtrial fibrillation (a-tree-uhl fih-bruh-lay-shun), or “afib” (ay-fib), is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper parts (atria) of the heart. A common type of arrhythmia in those over the age of 60, “atrial fibrillation is being diagnosed with increasing prevalence,” says Michele Derheim, director of clinical operations at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center and a registered nurse. “The quicker you’re treated for an afib condition, the better your chances are for good cardiovascular health.”

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