Patients Now Have Another Option to Help Prevent AFib-Related Stroke

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The American Heart Association estimates atrial fibrillation (AFib) doubles your risk of heart-related death and you’re five times more likely to suffer a stroke if you have AFib.

The physicians at St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute now offer our patients a new procedure that can help prevent stroke related to AFib not related to heart valve problems. This procedure is for patients who aren’t able to tolerate long-term use of blood thinners.

 Dr. Kevin Miller, Interventional Cardiologist at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute said, “AFib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and it affects more than five million Americans. Currently, the standard treatment for patients with AFib and increased risk of stroke is a blood-thinning drug therapy. The problem is not everyone can tolerate long-term drug therapy.”

Patients may not be able to take long-term blood-thinning therapy, such as Coumadin/Warfarin, due to:

  • High risk of falls or a history of falling.
  • Lifestyle is incompatible with daily blood thinners such as a job with a high risk for cuts or injury.
  • Complications from blood-thinning drugs such as gastrointestinal bleeding.

During the procedure, our physicians close off the left atrial appendage in the heart using a quarter-size implant called the Watchman device. The left atrial appendage is a small sac in the left atrium of the heart where blood can pool and clot and break free causing a stroke.

Implanting the Watchman device is a one-time procedure that usually lasts about an hour and is conducted with general anesthesia. The Watchman device is implanted through a small incision at the top of your leg using a catheter. Following the procedure, patients will need to stay in the hospital for a minimum of 24 hours.

It takes approximately 45 days to heal and the body will grow a natural lining over the device. After 45 days of healing, most patients can then discontinue the blood-thinners they were previously prescribed to lessen the risk of stroke.

The Watchman device has proven to be a safe and effective alternative to blood-thinning drug therapies.

Besides Dr. Miller, other doctors performing the procedure include Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Saeb Khoury, as well as Electrophysiologists Dr. Thomas Carrigan,and Dr. Mohamad Sinno.

For more information about the Watchman device, click here.