By age 70, ten percent of Americans will experience atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormal heartbeat that dramatically increases the risk that they will have a stroke. AFib can cause blood to stagnate in a certain area of the heart, potentially causing blood clots to form. Clots then can escape the heart and cause blockages or stroke.
Blood thinning medication is very effective in preventing the clots, but not every patient can take them because of internal bleeding complications or the risk of bleeding from falls or minor cuts and scrapes.
The WATCHMAN device, a new treatment at Concord Hospital Center for Cardiac Care, offers a new option that protects those patients, without blood thinners. The tiny wire and mesh device is threaded through a blood vessel into the heart, where it blocks blood from entering the left atrial appendage, the area where blood can pool and cause clots in AFib patients. For patients with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, this area is believed to be the source of the majority of stroke-causing blood clots. For patients with a WATCHMAN device, no blood gets in, so no clots can form to get out.
WATCHMAN helps patients in several ways: It reduces stroke risk in patients who otherwise would have had no protection because of their inability to take blood thinners; it helps patients who had been taking blood thinners avoid Emergency Department visits because of uncontrolled bleeding; and more importantly, even though it is impossible to cite specific numbers, doctors know the device has saved patients who otherwise would have had a stroke. Dr. Chodosh said patients at Cardiac Associates benefits from a comprehensive team including nurses, the anesthesia team and medical technicians. “I might be the face of it and who the patients meet, but the truth is, there is a huge team that I work with and we all work together. I’m very fortunate to be able to work with such dedicated, talented people.”