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Health news and issues in the Ozarks.

New Device Prevents Clots in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation


Patients in southwest Missouri who suffer from atrial fibrillation now have another option when it comes to reducing their risk of stroke.  KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

A device called a Watchman, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the last year, is now being offered at CoxHealth.

The tiny device—just two to three centimeters—is implanted in the left atrial appendage and prevents clots from forming in the out pouch of the heart.

Dr. Aparma Charla, electrophysiologist and cardiologist at CoxHealth, said the Watchman often allows patients to get off of blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin, which, while preventing clots, can lead to other problems.

"Patients fall, they can have a bleed. They can injure themselves, they can have a bleed, and Watchman, after the initial first few weeks after the procedure, in the majority of patients precludes the continuation of blood thinner medication," she said.

The device works like a sieve to keep blood from pooling in the heart, which is how clots form, according to a news release from CoxHealth.

Dr. Charla said they’ve implanted the device in several patients, and they’ve been able to take the initial patients off of their blood thinner medication.

"Which is amazing for these patients because they are the ones who had major bleeding problems while they were on Warfarin.  And the procedure went smoothly without any complications.  The patients were here in the hospital overnight and were discharged the next day," she said.

Patients with atrial fibrillation and who are able to take blood thinners for the first few weeks after the procedure are eligible for the device.

Ideal candidates are those at high risk for stroke, but who suffer bleeding problems caused by blood thinners.

Dr. Charla expects the Watchman to have a huge impact on atrial fibrillation patients.

"Because still now we had no alternative for these patients other than blood thinner medications, and if they cannot take them they are always worried about a stroke because they are at high risk for a stroke.  So this is the only approved non-pharmacological alternative to patients with atrial fibrillati0n who are at high risk for a stroke," she said.

Once implanted, the Watchman is expected to last a lifetime.

According to CoxHealth, only 100 hospitals nationwide offer this technology.