Trinity Heart Center is celebrating the 100th person to receive a successful implant of the WATCHMAN device, which reduces the risk of blood clots, stroke and reliance on blood thinners for patients with irregular heartbeats.

Trinity is the first and only health-care provider in the region to offer the WATCHMAN device to reduce stroke risk starting in 2020, a news release says.

WATCHMAN is an approved alternative to long-term blood thinner therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) not caused by a heart valve problem. The minimally invasive procedure takes a short amount of time and allows recipients of the device to be discharged the next day with return to their normal activities in a few days.

Atrial fibrillation is a common condition that affects more than 5 million people in the United States. The device works by closing 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 blood stream 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 their blood-thinning medication.

Helbert Acosta, MD, Mark W. Kovach, MD,and Rajiv Mallik, MD, all of Cardiovascular Medicine, P.C., perform the WATCHMAN procedure at UnityPoint Health –Trinity.“Patients who can’t tolerate blood thinners are in a tough spot because they need them to prevent stroke or bleeding complications,” said Robert J. Erickson, president & CEO, UnityPoint Health –Trinity.“This can be a better option for them that reduces the worry that comes with being at a higher risk for stroke.”

More than 100,000 patients received the one-time procedure WATCHMAN device from Boston Scientific. The permanent device does not need to be replaced, and isn’t visible outside the body. Cardiologists perform the procedure under general anesthesia in about an hour.

For more information, speak with a primary-care physician or call 309-779-5340.