Stroke Risk for Atrial Fibrillation

Doctors typically recommend blood thinners to prevent strokes from atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat. But if you can’t safely take these medications, Henry Ford Health System specialists can still protect your health.

At the Center for Structural Heart Disease, we offer minimally invasive procedures to lower your risk of stroke due to AFib. We can help you safely manage this condition and live your life to the fullest.

Why Choose Henry Ford to reduce atrial fibrillation stroke risk?

Our team has the tools, experience and skills to evaluate the part of the heart where blood clots can form and increase stroke risk. We bring together specialists with expertise in imaging and the devices used for treatment. Our team is led by William W. O’Neill, M.D., a highly respected expert on structural heart issues.

Our program’s expertise means we have earlier access to new devices and new protocols to reduce AFib-related stroke risk. You can often receive treatment not yet available at other programs.

We also work with atrial fibrillation specialists in Henry Ford’s Electrophysiology Program. They can identify root causes of AFib and consider direct treatment.

Atrial fibrillation and the risk of stroke

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. It’s typically caused by high blood pressure (hypertension) and leads to blood pooling in the heart’s upper chambers. Blood can also pool in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a tiny pouch attached to the left upper chamber.

Pooled blood from AFib can lead to blood clots, especially in the left atrial appendage. Blood clots increase the risk of stroke. If the heart’s pumping sends a clot to the brain, it can become stuck and block blood supply.

Evaluating your stroke risk

Our team works quickly to evaluate your heart and create a customized treatment plan to lower your risk of stroke. Your first visit can take place at our main campus, Henry Ford Hospital, Jackson (Henry Ford Allegiance), Clinton Township (Henry Ford Macomb), or West Bloomfield (Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital).

We meet with you to:

  • Perform a complete physical exam
  • Discuss your symptoms
  • Review your family and personal medical history
  • Review any previous tests or imaging studies
  • Determine whether you need additional heart tests or scans

Advanced treatment for atrial fibrillation stroke risk

Blood thinners can lower stroke risk for many people with AFib. For others, however, these medications can cause severe bleeding.

If you can’t take blood thinners, we offer procedures to close your left atrial appendage and reduce your risk of stroke. After your diagnosis, our team discusses your case and recommends the best procedure for you.

Our services include:

  • 3D printing: We use advanced 4D imaging and 3D printing of the heart to plan procedures that close the left atrial appendage. We are one of the few programs in the nation taking this approach. We create a replica of your heart and use it to think through each step of your treatment before it begins. This detailed planning means a safer, shorter procedure, with less pain afterward and a faster recovery.
  • LAA closure: Our doctors are experts in the latest procedures to close the left atrial appendage, specializing in those that avoid open-heart surgery. These procedures include implanting the WATCHMAN™ device, as well as other innovative procedures and clinical trials . We were the first program in Michigan to offer the WATCHMAN, so we have extensive experience with it.
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