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News Release

Media Contact: Tom Grant

Published on January 09, 2003

Press Release

New Cardiac Procedure To Reduce Stroke Risk Repairs Hole In Heart Without Surgery

Procedure Corrects a Congenital Defect and Can Help Prevent Stroke

Takoma Park, MD - A new procedure designed to close a hole in the heart while avoiding open-heart surgery is now being performed by doctors in the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Washington Adventist Hospital.

Before birth, every individual has a hole in their heart between the right and left upper chambers, which usually closes within the first few weeks of life. However, in approximately 10 percent of the population the hole never closes, leading to a defect known as patent foramen ovale (PFO).

Individuals with PFO have as much as three times the risk of stroke because blood clots could develop in the heart, travel through the hole between the chambers and ultimately constrict blood supply to the brain. Patients often don't know they have this defect until they suffer a medical emergency such as a stroke or unless it is detected through an echocardiogram.

During the corrective procedure, doctors guide a catheter through the femoral vein up into the heart. The device, which is slightly larger than a dime, is threaded through the catheter and placed between the left and right atrium. The device then opens into an umbrella-like shape and covers the hole. Eventually, tissue will grow around the device and form a natural barrier between the two chambers. The procedure takes about 20 minutes and is performed under local sedation, and patients are typically discharged from the hospital the next day.

"This procedure dramatically reduces the risk of stroke or recurrent stroke for patients with PFO," said Mark Turco, M.D., Medical Director of the Center for Cardiac & Vascular Research at Washington Adventist Hospital. "Another great benefit is that this procedure is less invasive, less expensive and requires a shorter hospital stay than open-heart surgery."

Washington Adventist Hospital is a regional center for cardiology diagnosis, intervention, rehabilitation and prevention. The hospital performs some 800 open-heart surgery procedures and more than 6,400 heart catheterizations and angioplasties each year. Recently, the hospital established the Center for Cardiac and Vascular Research (CCVR) to coordinate and expand the hospital's involvement in research and clinical trials.

In addition to cardiology and cardiac surgery, the hospital offers an array of health care services including emergency medicine, maternity services, radiation oncology and behavioral health. Washington Adventist Hospital is affiliated with the Adventist HealthCare system.

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