Life without blood thinners

It's possible for AFib patients through a procedure now offered in College Station.

Patients in the College Station area now have easier access to a procedure that helps minimize the risk of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm in which the heart’s upper chambers are out of sync with the lower chambers. The heart muscle does not fully contract, resulting in inefficient blood flow. Blood can pool in a small, pouch-like area of the heart known as the left atrial appendage and may eventually cause blood clots. When the heart returns to a normal rhythm, those blood clots can be pumped into the bloodstream and the brain, leading to stroke. In fact, patients with AFib are five times more likely to suffer a stroke.

AFib is the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States, mostly those over the age of 65. Some patients may have a genetic predisposition for AFib, while others may simply be triggered by another cardiac event like a heart attack or a procedure.

The condition is often treated with blood thinners to help prevent clots from forming and reduce the risk of stroke. However, blood thinners come with their own drawbacks—an increased risk of bleeding even with minor injuries, complications during surgery, expensive medications and frequent blood tests and doctor visits.

“Blood thinners are not the best long-term option for many people,” says Kinsey Burch-Nichols, BSN-RN, Structural Heart Coordinator for Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - College Station. “Especially patients with lifestyles or jobs where they’re at an increased risk for bleeding or falls, or patients who can’t afford expensive blood-thinning medications.”

Luckily, a simple device can make life without blood thinners possible for many patients with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem.

A small, parachute-like device is inserted through a vein in the leg and implanted in the heart to block off the left atrial appendage and prevent blood from pooling there in the first place. This permanent solution, known as left atrial appendage occlusion, allows most patients to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the minimally invasive procedure.

In the first six months of the program at College Station, the team has completed more than 40 occlusion procedures.

“This procedure is a great solution for a variety of patients to simplify their lives,” cardiac electrophysiologist Jason Cohen, DO says. “For some, it means the ability to enjoy their work and hobbies without concern for life-threatening bleeding. For other patients, it allows them to manage other medical issues more safely. And for many, it relieves the anxiety of figuring out how to pay for their most expensive medication.”

Check with your healthcare provider to find out if this procedure is available at your local Baylor Scott & White Medical Center.

To learn how you can support cardiology in College Station, contact Kassi Horner, JD, at 979-207-4074 or


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