Monroe, LA -- Physicians recently performed the institution’s first implant of the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device on a patient with atrial fibrillation (AFib). St. Francis Medical Center is the first and only hospital in Northeast Louisiana to offer the WATCHMAN device as an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners for people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib).
October 29th is World Stroke Day, which serves as a timely reminder of the increased risk of stroke among people living with AFib. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States have AFib. With the aging of the U.S. population, this number is expected to increase.
- Symptoms of AFib may include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations (rapid, fluttering, or pounding)
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
The CDC estimates AFib increases a person’s risk for stroke by four to five times compared with stroke risk for people who do not have AFib. The WATCHMAN device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the bloodstream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced, and over time, patients may be able to stop taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin.
The WATCHMAN device is a novel alternative for patients with non-valvular AFib at risk for a stroke, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners,” said Kristin Wolkart, President of St. Francis Medical Center. “We are extremely proud to offer our patients the latest technology and innovation for atrial fibrillation as it offers potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment.”
The WATCHMAN device has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide and is done in a one-time procedure. It’s a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
“People with atrial fibrillation are at significant risk of stroke, which can have a serious emotional and psychological effect on them,” said Mellanie True Hills, founder and chief executive officer, StopAfib.org, a patient advocacy organization for those living with AFib. “It is important for patients to be aware of and understand recent medical advances and treatments that can help with stroke prevention.”
About Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AFib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with AFib, and AFib-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AFib is blood-thinning warfarin medication. Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications. Nearly half of AFib patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.
For more information on the WATCHMAN device, call Elizabeth Riddle, St. Francis Structural Heart Program Coordinator at (318) 966-4595, talk with your physician or visit: www.watchman.com.