PEORIA, Ill. -- Area patients facing a potentially deadly heart condition now have more options when it comes to treatment.
Friday, heads of Methodist Medical Center announced they have successfully completed three new, state-of-the-art Lariat or "lasso" procedures and are one of 30 hospitals in the country to have done so.
Experts say the technique drastically reduces the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillations-- which simply means "an irregular heart beat."
Traditionally, doctors prescribe blood thinners for those patients, but they say that technique doesn't work for everyone.
"Many elderly people are at high risk for falling, and being on a blood thinner would give them the potential for having bleeding complications after a fall," said Dr. Joel Kupfer, Director of Interventional Cardiology at Methodist. "Also, many of these people have good quality of lives, and a stroke would be a devastating event."
Doctors say while the procedure is new, it has been thoroughly tested and is safe.
Experts say roughly one third of strokes in the U.S. are caused by atrial fibrillations, or irregular heartbeats.
Eighty-four-year-old Gisela Hull of East Peoria has been dealing with the symptoms of her atrial fibrillation for years and knew a stroke could be next.
Recently doctors at Methodist Medical Center suggested she try the new Lariat procedure.
Experts say in patients like Hull, it drastically and safely reduces the risk of stroke.
"When he told me this is very new, I thought 'oh, I'm going to be a guinea pig.' And he says 'no, don't look at it that way.' I said 'oh, okay.' And now I'm glad I did it," said Hull.
"There are a number of patients who we think can benefit from this procedure and this technology, and we're hopeful that people and patients will educate themselves about the procedure," said Dr. Kupfer.
Doctors say Gisela's surgery went extremely well.
She was released from the hospital on Friday, pain-free.