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Watchman Offers Patients With Afib New Option to Help Prevent Stroke

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DOYLESTOWN – Physicians from Doylestown Health's Richard A. Reif Heart Institute are now able to offer patients with Atrial Fibrillation an alternative to blood thinners to help reduce the risk of stroke.

A team of cardiologists specially trained in device implantation and electrophysiology implanted the first Watchman device at Doylestown Hospital on Tuesday, February 9. The team implanted the device in a 68-year-old male who has Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) to help prevent stroke. AFib is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart conditions.

"It is important for us to offer patients the most advanced, proven technology available to treat atrial fibrillation," said John Mitchell, executive director of Doylestown Health Cardiovascular Services. "For people who can't take blood thinners like Coumadin, this new therapy is effective in helping to prevent stroke without the side effects of a blood thinner."

The Watchman device is a new option for patients with AFib who cannot tolerate anti-coagulants (blood thinners) like Coumadin (warfarin). The device is permanently implanted in the left atrial appendage of the heart. In patients with AFib, blood can collect in this small, ear-shaped sac in the top left chamber of the heart and form clots. When blood clots leave the heart they can cause stroke. People with AFib are five to seven times more likely to have a stroke compared to people without AFib.

For years, patients with AFib have been prescribed blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming. In some people, Coumadin can cause serious side effects. Also, some people dislike the frequent blood draws needed to check medication levels and dietary restrictions while on the drug.

The Watchman is a fabric-covered device shaped like a parachute that expands to close the opening of the appendage to prevent clots from leaving the heart. Doctors implant the device using a catheter. It is possible the patient will be able to stop taking Coumadin in about 45 days.

Heart Institute physicians implanted the first Watchman in the EP (electrophysiology) lab with a team approach that included interventional cardiologists, medical cardiologists, electrophysiologists and radiologists. Patients with AFib must meet strict criteria to be considered for the device, which was approved by the FDA in March 2015.

About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services

Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.

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