Healing Hearts to Prevent Stroke

Healing Hearts to Prevent Stroke

Reported January 23, 2009

CHICAGO (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s a common heart defect that affects more than 20 percent of the population, but for an unlucky group it can lead to stroke before the age of 50. Right now, most young, otherwise healthy people who have a stroke are put on restrictive medications for the rest of their lives, but there may be an easier, one-time fix that lasts forever.

Thirty-one-year-old commercial truck driver and first-time father Nathan Prince knows what it’s like to see his future flash before his eyes.

“I really did think man, if this keeps getting worse and worse this could be it,” Prince recalled to Ivanhoe.

He was on the road, hours away from home when the stroke hit.

“I had to move the truck over from where I was at to get out of the way so I wouldn’t be in the way,” Prince described.

After Prince was rushed to the hospital, doctors found a small hole in the upper chambers of his heart, or a PFO. One in five people have a PFO. It leads to a stroke in 100,000 Americans every year, often before they turn 50.



“Once you have one stroke from the PFO, your chance of having a recurrent stroke is higher than usual,” Ziyad Hijazi, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, explained to Ivanhoe.

Patients are typically forced take blood thinners for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Hijazi is leading a large study to see if patching the hole with a device made out of gortex is a better option. The patch is already approved to close larger holes in the heart. It’s threaded through a catheter in the groin. Once it reaches the heart the umbrella-like device latches on the walls of the heart and pulls the two chambers together. It takes 45 minutes.

“We believe that if you do the one-shot procedure to close the hole, you would not take any blood thinner for the rest of your life,” Dr. Hijazi said.

This was the way to go for Prince who did not want to depend on medication forever.

“I couldn’t see myself doing that for that long,” Prince said.

He’s eager to continue making memories with his family for years to come.

Fifty hospitals across the country are studying the device. The minimally invasive approach could become the standard of care, eliminating the need for blood thinning medications. People on those drugs run the risk of internal bleeding and must have their blood checked once a month.


Deborah Song, Media Relations
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL
(312) 942-0588