St. Francis Medical Center First in Northeast Louisiana to Offer Watchman Device

10/16/2019

Permanent heart implant is the only FDA-approved device for the reduction of stroke risk in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation

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)
  • Lightheadedness
  • 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.

 

About Our Lady of the Lake

Our Lady of the Lake is a not-for-profit 800-bed medical center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with more than 7,100 employees committed to building a healthy community through excellence in patient care and education. With a Regional Medical Center, dedicated Children’s Hospital, two freestanding emergency rooms, and a 450-provider Physician Group, Our Lady of the Lake provides comprehensive healthcare services for common to complex conditions. Our Lady of the Lake is a primary teaching site for graduate medical education programs and is recognized in the areas of heart and vascular, trauma and emergency care, stroke, cancer care, minimally-invasive procedures and more. In 2016, Our Lady of the Lake was one of three hospitals recognized by the American Hospital Association with the Quest for Quality Prize award.

About Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital

Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital is Louisiana’s fastest growing children’s hospital treating more than 100,000 patients annually from across Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The hospital is the only healthcare provider in the Baton Rouge area that provides a full range of pediatric services ranging from a 24/7 pediatric emergency room to a team of more than 100 pediatricians and pediatric specialists. For more information, visit www.ololchildrens.org.

The new freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital is currently under construction and is set to open in 2019. To learn more about the project, visit www.letsbuildamazing.com.

About Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health

Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health is a collaborative, coordinated and child-focused statewide health network that provides patients with more access to physicians and providers specifically trained to care for children. The network includes hospital-based services at the main campus in Baton Rouge and the future freestanding hospital, as well as in Monroe with St. Francis Pediatrics. It also connects pediatricians, pediatric specialists and other health providers across our state with clinics in the Baton Rouge region, Hammond, Lafayette and Monroe. This model of coordinated pediatric healthcare extends the vital work happening at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital into more communities across Louisiana so families have greater access to expertise close to home.

About the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System

The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System is one of the largest healthcare systems based in Louisiana and is the leading healthcare provider for more than half of Louisiana's population, as well as serves Mississippi's largest metropolitan area. The health system is a non-profit, Catholic organization sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the ministry serves patients in Louisiana and Mississippi through a network of hospitals, clinics, physicians, elderly housing and integrated systems.

About Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group

With more than 450 healthcare providers throughout more than 70 locations, Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group is one of the area’s largest physician networks. In addition to primary care, this experienced group of doctors specializes in diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of illnesses and complex medical problems.

About St. Elizabeth Physicians

St. Elizabeth Physicians is the largest provider of primary and specialty care in Ascension Parish, employing over 50 primary care physicians, specialists and providers. St. Elizabeth Physicians has been recognized for quality by the Louisiana Quality Foundation, and as the Large Business of the Year twice by the Ascension Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit the St. Elizabeth Hospital website.

About St. Francis Medical Center

St. Francis Medical Center is a not-for-profit 359-bed medical center in Monroe, Louisiana with more than 1,800 team members committed to caring for those we serve. With an acute-care hospital, freestanding outpatient center, 19 outpatient clinics, and nearly 350 physician partners, St. Francis Medical Center provides comprehensive healthcare services for a variety of medical and surgical specialties. St. Francis offers Northeast Louisiana’s only Level III NICU, Level III OB, and Level II PICU services. St. Francis Medical Center leads the region in heart and vascular services, critical care, and complex and minimally invasive surgical procedures. The hospital offers an Accredited Chest Pain Center and Centers of Excellence in the areas of obstetrics, bariatric surgery, minimally invasive gynecology, and breast health.

About St. Francis Medical Group

With over 50 healthcare providers at 16 clinic locations, St. Francis Medical Group is one of the area’s largest physician networks and is backed by the resources of St. Francis Medical Center. In addition to primary care, this experienced group of providers specializes in diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of illnesses and complex medical problems. For more information visit the St. Francis Medical Center website.