Forrest General Hospital is among the first hospitals in Mississippi to offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) an alternative to long-term warfarin medication with the newly approved WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant.
“The new WATCHMAN LAAC Implant provides physicians with a breakthrough stroke risk reduction option for patients with non-valvular AF, especially those who are poor candidates for long-term anticoagulation,” said Mark Borganelli, M.D., at Forrest General.
For patients with AF who are considered suitable for warfarin by their physicians but who have reason to seek a non-drug alternative, the WATCHMAN LAAC Implant is an implant alternative to reduce their risk of AF-related stroke. The WATCHMAN Implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots from 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 warfarin or other anticoagulants. Each case is taken on an individual basis. The doctors currently on the Watchman Team are Dr. Mark Borganelli, Dr. Randy Smith, and Dr. Craig Thieling.
People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke.1 Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to pool and form clots in the LAA. For patients with non-valvular AF, the LAA is believed to be the source of the majority of stroke-causing blood clots.2 If a clot forms in the LAA, it can increase one’s risk of having a stroke. Blood clots can break loose and travel in the blood stream to the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body.
“It is very exciting that the first patient is now off of their anti-coagulation medication after this procedure. We have confirmed through transesophageal echocardiograms that the device has truly sealed off the left atrial appendage with no leakage. This is life-changing for this patient and has freed them from the challenges of long-term anti-coagulation therapy,” said Borganelli.
Implanting the WATCHMAN Device is a one-time procedure that usually lasts about an hour. Following the procedure, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours.
About Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans.3 Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with AF, and AF-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling.4,5 The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning warfarin medication and now the the newer oral anticoagulants as well. 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 AF patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.6
The WATCHMAN Implant is designed to close the LAA in order to keep harmful blood clots from the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke for higher risk patients with non-valvular AF. The WATCHMAN Implant has been approved in Europe since 2005 and is FDA-approved in the United States. It has been implanted in more than 10,000 patients and is approved in more than 70 countries around the world.
For more information about Heart and Vascular Services at Forrest General Hospital, visit forrestgeneral.com/services/heart.
About WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device from Boston Scientific
The WATCHMAN Device is a permanent implant designed to close the left atrial appendage in the heart in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke. With all medical procedures there are risks associated with the implant procedure and the use of the device. The risks include but are not limited to accidental heart puncture, air embolism, allergic reaction, anemia, anesthesia risks, arrhythmias, AV (Arteriovenous) fistula, bleeding or throat pain from the TEE (Trans Esophageal Echo) probe, blood clot or air bubbles in the lungs or other organs, bruising at the catheter insertion site, clot formation on the WATCHMAN™ Closure Device, cranial bleed, excessive bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, groin puncture bleed, hypotension, infection/pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema, pulmonary vein obstruction, renal failure, stroke, thrombosis and transient ischemic attack. In rare cases death can occur. Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with the implantation of the WATCHMAN Device.