YOUR HEALTH: Have doctors found a better way to prevent clots and strokes?

MIAMI, Florida – It's a common condition that makes your heart race.

But atrial fibrillation can also put you at risk of a stroke.

Now doctors are studying a way to better predict which patients are at a higher risk of dangerous blood clots.

That includes Richard Amundsen, and his racing heart.

"Occasionally it would go up and all of a sudden I would be at 170 beats per minute," he said.

More than six million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation, a condition that makes your heart race and can cause a stroke.

Dr. Jeffrey Goldberger, Chief of the Cardiovascular Division at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, says Richard's AFib condition affects the way blood flows through the heart which can cause clots.

"If those travel anywhere to the body, particularly the brain, it can cause a stroke," explained Dr. Goldberger.

Most patients like Richard are put on blood thinners to prevent stroke.   But there are dangerous side effects.

"The blood thinners have a three percent risk of major bleeding per year," said Dr. Goldberg.

So, Dr. Goldberger and his team at the University of Miami are studying a better way to predict which AFib patients are at high risk of forming these clots.

It's called 4-D Flow M-R-I.

"What it allows us to do is actually measure in every part of the atrium the blood flow velocity or speed throughout the cardiac cycle," explained Dr. Goldberg.

The researchers are studying patients who undergo cardioversion therapy to shock their heart back into normal rhythm.

STROKE AND BLOOD CLOTS:   When it comes to treating AFib there are two primary treatment goals: 1) Reducing the risk of blood clots and stroke and 2) Managing abnormal heart rate or rhythm.   As a result, patients may need one or more medications to treat their AFib.   Reducing stroke risk is an important part of treating AFib.   To help reduce the risk of AFib-related stroke, healthcare providers may prescribe anticoagulants or antiplatelets, which are both blood thinners to help prevent blood clots from forming. There are different kinds of blood thinners.   Older blood thinners require regular blood tests to monitor how the blood thinners are working. Newer blood thinners do not.   Patients should check with their physician to see which kind of blood thinners are best for them.

"We're hoping to find that actually restoring the rhythm to normal improves the blood flow velocity."

Allowing doctors to make better decisions about who needs to be on blood thinners and who does not.

"I've been very lucky," said Richard Amundsen.

Richard had cardioversion to eliminate his Afib.

"I'm enjoying my life."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.