The permanent heart implant is the only FDA-approved device for the reduction of stroke risk in
patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation
The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center is now offering the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib). These patients are often at high risk of suffering a stroke and need to take lifelong anticoagulation medication (i.e. blood thinners) to reduce their risk. These medications can sometimes cause spontaneous bleeding. Examples of these medications include warfarin, Eliquis, Xarelto or Pradaxa. The WATCHMAN device can be an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners for people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib).
An estimated five million Americans are affected by AFib – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart.3 People with AFib have a five times greater risk of stroke4 than those with normal heart rhythms. The WATCHMAN device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the left atrial appendage from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke is reduced and, over time, patients can usually stop taking blood thinners.
“The WATCHMAN device is a novel alternative for patients with non-valvular AFib at risk for a stroke, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners for the rest of their life,” says Serge Tobias, M.D., medical director, electrophysiology, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “I’m proud to have performed the first implant of this device at our hospital as it offers potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment for our patients” says Dr Mark Lee, cardiac electrophysiologist, who is heading the implant program.
The WATCHMAN device has been implanted in more than 100,000 patients worldwide and the implant is performed 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. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
“People with atrial fibrillation are at significant risk of stroke, which can have a serious emotional and psychological effect on them,” says Mellanie True Hills, founder and chief executive officer, StopAfib.org, a patient advocacy organization for those living with AFib. “Thus it is important for them to be aware of and understand recent medical advances and treatments that can help with stroke prevention.”
The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute is one of California's most comprehensive centers for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of cardiovascular disease. Nationally recognized, it provides advanced care for complex heart conditions including heart attacks, heart failure, valvular heart disease, arrhythmias, implantable device management and peripheral vascular disease. For information regarding the availability of the WATCHMAN device at Long Beach Medical Center, call (562) 933-3370.
About MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center:
MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center has been providing the community with compassionate, quality health care for more than 100 years. While leading in specialized care, research and education, Long Beach Medical Center has an outstanding record of innovation and medical advances, along with numerous accolades. Long Beach Medical Center is ranked no. 9 in the Los Angeles Metro Area by U.S. News & World Report and has earned Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence. With leading centers for cancer, heart, rehabilitation, orthopedics, neurology and trauma, physicians and surrounding hospitals continually refer to its accredited programs.
About Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AFib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans.3 Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with AFib, and AFib-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling.1,2 The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AFib is blood-thinning medication (anticoagulation). Despite their proven efficacy, blood thinners may not be well-tolerated by some patients and carry a significant risk for bleeding complications. Many AFib patients eligible for anticoagulation therapy are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.5 For more information on the WATCHMAN device, visit watchman.com.
1. Hart RG, Halperin JL., Ann Intern Med. 1999; 131:688–695
2. McGrath ER, Neurology 2013; 81:825-832
3. Colilla et al., Am J Cardiol. 2013; 112:1142-1147
4. Holmes DR, Seminars in Neurology 2010; 30:528–536 5. Waldo, AL. JACC 2005; 46:1729-1736.