How an Irregular Heartbeat Can Increase Your Risk of Stroke

Irregular HeartbeatAtrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia seen by physicians. AF is a condition in which the two of the heart’s four chambers beat irregularly. According to the American Heart Association, the risk of stroke is 5 times higher in patients diagnosed with AF because of an increased risk for clots in the heart chambers.

Depending on a patient’s age and other clinical risk factors for stroke, a scoring system is typically generated that will help classify that patient’s stroke risk. Patients with one or more risk factors for stroke are usually advised to take blood thinners for stroke prevention. Warfarin (or Coumadin) and other newer agents Pradaxa®, Xarelto® or Eliquis®  are proven therapies for stroke prevention in AF patients. All of these medications have proven to be safe and effective. Nevertheless, some patients may not tolerate these medications or could develop bleeding complications. In that case, a new option for stroke prevention has been studied and is awaiting FDA approval.

This new therapy is called the “Watchman” device. This device is delivered via a minimally invasive procedure (entry via the femoral vein) into the left atrium. In the left atrium this device is used to cover the left atrial appendage. X-Ray and echocardiography are used to guide this procedure. The left atrial appendage is a structure in the left atrium, or left heart chamber, that has a “cul-de-sac” shape and is responsible for the majority of clot formation in patients with non-valvular AF.

Emory Electrophysiologists have participated in the original studies of the “Watchman” device, which may lead to FDA approval. To schedule an appointment with an Emory Electrophysiologist, please call 404-778-7777 or visit

About Dr. El-Chami

Mikhael El Chami, MDMikhael El-Chami, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University and is the director of the arrhythmia clinic at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Dr. El-Chami received his undergraduate and doctorate of medicine degree at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Following his internship and residency at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, he was selected to be a chief medical resident at Emory University Hospital Midtown. After completion of his Chief Residency he also finished a cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology fellowship at Emory. He has been an Emory Faculty member since 2008. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the Heart Rhythm Society, as well as an Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society member.

Dr. El-Chami’s professional interests involve the treatment of heart rhythm disorders and prevention of sudden cardiac death. He has had numerous publications in the field of electrophysiology and continues to be involved in research on a number of studies related to atrial fibrillation and management of heart failure through device therapy.

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