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Landmark Atrial fibrillation treatment trial underway in Jacksonville

When someone has AFib, studies show they have a 500% increased risk of stroke. Patients are often told to take a blood thinner for the rest of their life.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A life-changing trial is going on in Jacksonville and you have the chance to get someone you love involved. The WATCHMAN trial is for a device to treat atrial fibrillation, more commonly known as AFib which is the most common type of abnormal heartbeat. 

When someone has AFib, studies show they have a 500% increased risk of stroke than someone without AFib. Patients are often told to take a blood thinner for the rest of your life to prevent stroke, but this trial will provide another option.

“Through trials like these we can actually give them what they may not be able to get for the next 4 or 5 years if we did not have this trial," said Dr. Saumil Oza, the Chief of Cardiology at Ascension St. Vincents.

Oza explains that this device can turn a cave-like structure in your heart into a smooth surface closing off the area of the heart responsible for 90 percent of strokes. The company's website says the device is the size of a quarter and looks like a parachute. 

Oza says the surgery to put this device in a heart takes about 20 minutes. He says the skin of the heart will grow over the device and heal it off from the heart. 

The trial will involve 3,000 people around the world. 450 of those will be locally through Ascension St. Vincent's. Oza says they have about a dozen people enrolled so far.

He describes the trial as revolutionary.

“It’s probably the reason why I do what I do now is to try to bring the newest technology to my patients and to see the joy in their eyes when I can tell them that there is a potential chance for them to get off these blood thinners," Oza says. 

Blood thinners have their issues overtime including excessive bruising and making it easier to bleed. 

Everything has risks, but Oza says this procedure has shown to have 0.5 percent adverse outcomes. This is the only hospital in Jacksonville and the nearby area involved in this trial. 

AFib already affects millions of people in the U.S. and the diagnoses are expected to rise. 

“In our society, all those diseases are also increasing in prevalence so we are really expecting a huge surge of patients over the next fifteen to 20 years," Oza explains. 

If you are interested in the trial, call 904-388-1820.