SALEM, VA. (VR) — LewisGale Medical Center announced it successfully performed a permanent heart implant in a patient with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) to reduce stroke risk.
The procedure uses technology, known as WATCHMAN FLX™, to close off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) which will prevent harmful blood clots forming in the LAA from entering the bloodstream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking blood thinners.
B. John Hynes, MD, a board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist with LewisGale Physicians —Electrophysiology, recently performed the first procedure at LewisGale Medical Center.
“Patients describe atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AFib, as a quivering or irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia,” said Dr. Hynes. “Arrhythmias can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. The majority 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.”
Hynes added the procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day. The implant is about the size of a quarter and made from very light, compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
AF is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting up to 6 million Americans.3 ,5 Stroke is the most common complication of AF, and AF-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling.1,2 In people with non-valvular AF, more than 90% of all stroke-causing clots that come from the heart form in the LAA.6 The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin. While very effective at reducing the risk of stroke, blood thinners increase the risk of serious bleeding over time and come with certain requirements and restrictions.
“Building upon a well-established cardiac program, this treatment serves as a safe and effective stroke risk reduction alternative for patients,” stated Alan Fabian, LewisGale Regional Health System market president. “We are excited to offer patients a potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment.”
In addition to WATCHMAN FLX™, LewisGale Medical Center offers a variety of services for the care and treatment of structural heart disease including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), service surgical valve replacement (SAVR), and repair of patent foramen ovale (PFO). For additional information about LewisGale Medical Center’s Structural Heart Program, contact Heather Snyder, structural heart navigator, at (540) 581-2477.
1. Hart RG, Halperin JL., Ann Intern Med. 1999; 131:688–695.
2. McGrath ER, Neurology 2013; 81:825-832.
3. Colilla S, Crow A et al. Estimates of Current and Future Incidence and Prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation in the U.S. Adult Population. Am J Cardiol 2013;112:1142-1147.
4. National Stroke Association. Making the Afib-Stroke Connection. https://www.stroke.org/sites/ default/files/resources/ AfibConnection%20for%20hcp.pdf . Published 2012. Accessed September 1, 2016.
5. “Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ heartdisease/atrial_ fibrillation.htm.
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