Trident Health System September 05, 2017

Charleston, SC — Atrial Fibrillation is one of the most common forms of heart disease. An estimated 2.7 million Americans are living with it, according the Centers for Disease Control. The average person with Atrial Fibrillation is five times more likely to suffer a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat.

“Atrial fibrillation is often referred to as AFib or AF,” said electrophysiologist Darren Sidney, MD with Charleston Heart Specialists. “Patients describe AFib as a quivering or irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia, that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.”

For a selected group of AFib patients, stroke is a significant risk due the blood thinning therapy prescribed to treat the disease. For these patients Trident Medical Center is now offering a new alternative called the WATHCMAN Implantable Device.

Dr. Sidney is the medical director of Trident Medical Center’s WATCHMAN program. He says reducing the risk for stroke is most important advantage to WATCHMAN. “There is risk with any medical procedure, and I’m clear with my patients about the risks associated with WATCHMAN and also the benefits,” explained Dr. Sidney. “It’s important for a prospective patient to be informed.”

Understanding the connection between AFib and stroke helps patients learn how WATCHMAN works. AFib affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. This can cause blood to pool in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.

In people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. That’s why closing off this part of the heart is an effective way to reduce stroke risk.

The WATCHMAN Implant fits right into your LAA. It’s designed to permanently close it off and keep those blood clots from escaping. WATCHMAN is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.

WATCHMAN is the only FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, also referred to as non-valvular AFib. “The device is implanted into the heart 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,” said Dr. Sidney.

To implant WATCHMAN, the physician makes a small cut in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. The doctor then guides WATCHMAN into the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart.

Dr. Sidney explained, “The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.”

In a clinical trial 92% of patients were able to stop taking warfarin 45 days after the procedure and 99% of patients were able to stop taking warfarin within one year after the procedure. Take the following risk assessment below to start the process to determine if you are a candidate for WATCHMAN. If you answer “yes” to all of the questions you may be a candidate for WATCHMAN. To learn more talk to your doctor or call Charleston Heart Specialists at (843) 863-5600. The office is located at 9304 Medical Plaza Drive, Suite D, Charleston, SC 29406.