Physicians at Community Hospital in Munster are among the first in Northwest Indiana to use advanced implantable technology, called WATCHMAN™, in patients to help reduce their risk of stroke. Structural/Interventional Cardiologist, Hussam Suradi, MD, Interventional Cardiologist Samer Abbas, MD, and Electrophysiologist William Spear, MD, recently successfully implanted the WATCHMAN left atrial appendage closure device in three patients. The device offers an alternative to long-term blood-thinning warfarin therapy to reduce stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) not caused by a heart valve issue.
The WATCHMAN implant is a parachute-shaped, self-expanding device that is designed to permanently close off the left atrial appendage, a part of the heart believed to be the source of a majority of stroke causing blood clots.
“The WATCHMAN implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage to keep harmful blood clots that may form from entering the bloodstream and potentially causing a stroke,” said Suradi, medical director of Community Healthcare System’s Structural Heart and Valve Clinic. “By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke is reduced, and over time, these patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.”
Atrial-fibrillation (A-Fib) is an irregular heartbeat that affects more than five million Americans. Patients with A-Fib have a five-fold increased risk for stroke due to blood stagnating from the improperly beating atrium and the resulting blood clot formation. The most common treatment for reducing the risk of stroke due to blood clots is with blood-thinning warfarin therapy.
“Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin therapy is not well-tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications,” said Abbas. “Nearly half of patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.”
Implantation of the WATCHMAN device is a one-time procedure that usually lasts an hour and is typically performed under general anesthesia. Following the procedure, patients typically need to stay in the hospital 24 to 48 hours.
“Studies have shown that the WATCHMAN device enables 92 percent of patients to stop warfarin therapy after 45 days,” added Spear. “It is a significant treatment option for those patients who are a high-risk for stroke due to non-valvular A-Fib, but aren’t suitable for long-term blood-thinning pharmaceuticals.”
The Structural Heart & Valve Center team of Community Healthcare System is dedicated to providing patients with access to the most advanced treatments for structural heart and valve diseases. The center is among an elite few in Indiana to offer patients WATCHMAN™ for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation, MitraClip® for mitral valve repair, balloon valvuloplasty for both aortic and mitral valve stenosis and TAVR or transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the team determines the most effective treatment options and shares best practices to ensure patients receive the most comprehensive care available.
For more information on the Structural Heart & Valve Center, call 219-703-5301 or visit www.comhs.org.