Watchman device webA revolutionary device permanently implanted in the heart can significantly reduce the risk of stroke for individuals with a particular type of irregular heart rhythm. Used to treat for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (non-valvular AFib), the Watchman™ permanent heart implant effectively reduces the risk of stroke with a 95 percent success rate.

Furthermore, the device is an alternative to the lifelong use of the blood thinner warfarin, or Coumadin, for people non-valvular Afib. This eliminates the patient’s risk of bleeding that can come with the long-term use of warfarin and other blood thinners, as well as the regular blood tests and food-and-drink restrictions that come with blood thinners.

St. Luke’s recently completed its first Watchman™ device implantation for patient Patrick Kotula, 71, of Nesquehoning, in a procedure led by cardiac electrophysiologist, Steven Stevens, MD.

“The Watchman has been clinically studied for over 10 years and is FDA-approved as a good option for someone at risk for a stroke from atrial fibrillation,” explains Dr. Stevens.

“It’s also good for patients on blood thinners who are at high risk for bleeding. Bleeding in the brain can also cause a stroke, so the Watchman would allow these patients to safely stop taking the blood thinners that could be potentially harmful.”

Patients with AFib can be five times more likely to have a stroke because the condition puts a severe strain on the heart and blood vessels, which can cause the blood clots that cut off the blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke.

“About the size of a quarter, the Watchman device is inserted through a tube that travels to the left atrium of the heart, the part of the heart in which about 90 percent of stroke-causing clots form during AFib,” says Dr. Stevens.

“The Watchman simply plugs the area so clots can’t form there and then dislodge to be sent off to the brain and body, causing a stroke.”

Patrick is doing well after the procedure and subsequent one-night hospital stay. He describes the recovery as “uneventful” with only small discomfort in the groin area.

“I’ve had problems in the past with bleeds in the brain because of years of blood thinner use and I was always worried about the risk of falling and stroke,” explains Patrick. “But the doctors are now confident that I can cut back the use of blood thinners and brain bleeds will not be a concern in the future. I’m so grateful that I can now lead a normal active life.”

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