The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center is now offering the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib). These patients are often at high risk of suffering a stroke and need to take lifelong anticoagulation medication (i.e. blood thinners) to reduce their risk. These medications can sometimes cause spontaneous bleeding. Examples of these medications include warfarin, Eliquis, Xarelto or Pradaxa. The WATCHMAN device can be 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).
An estimated five million Americans are affected by AFib – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart.3 People with AFib have a five times greater risk of stroke4 than those with normal heart rhythms. The WATCHMAN device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the left atrial appendage from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke is reduced and, over time, patients can usually stop taking blood thinners.
“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 for the rest of their life,” says Serge Tobias, M.D., medical director, electrophysiology, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “I’m proud to have performed the first implant of this device at our hospital as it offers potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment for our patients” says Dr Mark Lee, cardiac electrophysiologist, who is heading the implant program.
The WATCHMAN device has been implanted in more than 100,000 patients worldwide and the implant is performed 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,” says Mellanie True Hills, founder and chief executive officer, StopAfib.org, a patient advocacy organization for those living with AFib. “Thus it is important for them to be aware of and understand recent medical advances and treatments that can help with stroke prevention.”
The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute is one of California’s most comprehensive centers for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of cardiovascular disease. Nationally recognized, it provides advanced care for complex heart conditions including heart attacks, heart failure, valvular heart disease, arrhythmias, implantable device management and peripheral vascular disease.