Implant Reduces Risk of Stroke in Patients with AFib
Stamford Health is the first hospital in Connecticut to offer patients who have atrial fibrillation (AFib) access to the WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) device. This implant provides physicians with a revolutionary, minimally invasive option for reducing the risk for stroke in AFib patients, particularly those whose condition is not caused by heart valve problems and who are not suitable candidates for long-term blood thinners like warfarin.
“We’ve been waiting for an alternative to blood thinners for a long time. Many patients have a strong aversion to the idea of taking them because they worry about the risks of bleeding associated with that type of medication,” said Dr. Sandhya Dhruvakumar, Director of Electrophysiology at Stamford Health. “The ideal solution is to find a way to prevent stroke without the need for blood-thinning therapy, and I believe WATCHMAN is the first step. It’s the only FDA-approved device of its kind – a game changer for patients because it lessens the risk of stroke and protects them from bleeding.”
More than 5 million Americans suffer from AFib, an abnormal heartbeat associated with high risk for stroke that can also cause blood clots, heart failure and other complications.
Due to the heart’s irregular heart rhythm, most stroke-causing clots are formed in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The WATCHMAN is a one-time, permanent device that is implanted during a process similar to a stent, where a narrow tube is inserted through a small opening in the upper part of a patient’s leg, and is carefully placed in the LAA in the heart. The WATCHMAN prevents blood clots from forming in the LAA and from traveling into other parts of the body, therefore decreasing a stroke occurrence in higher risk patients.
“Stroke is a scary reality for those at risk. Our patients can now have the access to a new treatment option beyond anticoagulation to lessen AFib-related stroke risks,” said Dr. David Hsi, Chief of Cardiology & Co-Director of the Heart & Vascular Institute, Stamford Health. “As clinicians, we are always looking for new technology and therapies that best meet our patients’ needs.”
This device, created by Boston Scientific, was approved by the FDA in 2015 based on a robust clinical program which has included more than 3,300 patients. In a clinical study, 92 percent of patients were able to stop taking warfarin 45 days after receiving the WATCHMAN implant and 99 percent did not need the medication within one year. Since the WATCHMAN LACC device became available internationally in 2009, more than 20,000 procedures have been performed worldwide. You can watch a brief video to see how the Watchman works to minimize the potential for stroke for those with Afib, or learn more about Stamford Health’s Heart & Vascular Institute.