The Genesis heart program marked a milestone Jan. 22 when the first WATCHMAN implant procedures were performed in the Cath Lab at Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street.
The implant is a minimally invasive, one-time procedure designed to reduce the risk of strokes that originate in the hearts of patients with atrial fibrillation, a news release says. The procedures were performed by electrophysiologist and cardiologist Kelly Airey, M.D., FHRS, FACC, Cardiovascular Medicine, P.C.
Both patients who successfully received the implant were discharged after an overnight stay in the hospital and are scheduled for follow-up visits with Airey.
The common treatment for clot prevention for patients with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) is blood thinners, such as warfarin. However, blood thinners can produce side effects such as bleeding.
WATCHMAN is considered to be an alternative for patients who are unable to tolerate long-term use of blood thinners. The device is implanted inside the left atrial appendage of the heart.
The device, made of metal alloy with a fabric cover, looks like a tiny umbrella. It expands when deployed and closes off the left atrial appendage to prevent any clots formed from entering the bloodstream, where they can travel and cause stroke. During the weeks after the implant, heart tissue grows over it and the LAA is permanently sealed.
“WATCHMAN™ is a device that has proven to be safe and 90 percent effective in stroke prevention without the side effects and inconvenience of use of blood thinners,” said Airey. “
“It’s a pretty quick procedure and you stay overnight and go home the next day.”
Data show that 92 percent of patients are able to discontinue their use of warfarin after 45 days, while 99 percent of patients discontinue warfarin use after one year.
Blair Foreman, M.D., FACC, electrophysiologist, Cardiovascular Medicine, P.C., says most patients are able to return to normal activity in a week or less.
“It really is a game-changer,” said Foreman, who also will perform the procedure at Genesis. “Nationwide, this device has been available for a time, and now our institution is offering it because we feel that for many, many people, there’s no other way to give them good protection from clots that form as a result of atrial fibrillation.”