- WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Offers Patients With Atrial Fibrillation An Alternative to Long-Term Warfarin Treatment to Reduce the Risk of Stroke
AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute (TCAI) at St. David's Medical Center recently became the first facility in Texas to implant the newly FDA-approved WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device in a patient with non-valvular Atrial Fibrillation (A Fib).
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"The WATCHMAN is a novel new mechanical closure of an atrial appendage," Rodney Horton, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center, said. "We are pleased to be the first in the state to implant this new device."
A Fib is a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). A Fib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Patients with A Fib are at a greater risk of stroke, as A Fib can cause blood to pool and form clots in the left atrial appendage (LAA). If a blood clot breaks loose, it can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. Approximately 20 percent of all strokes occur in patients with A Fib, and A Fib-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling.
The most common treatment to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with A Fib is the use of blood-thinning warfarin medication. Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients, and it carries a significant risk for bleeding complications. Nearly half of A Fib patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.
Cardiac ablation is another common treatment option. During ablation, electrical energy is delivered to the heart tissue in an effort to restore normal heart rhythm by disconnecting the source of the abnormal rhythm from the rest of the heart.
"I had a neurological incident with stroke-like symptoms," Robert Klein, a WATCHMAN patient, said. "My left foot gave way and I fell. When this happened, it was a complete surprise because Dr. Horton had just done an ablation to get me back in rhythm."
Klein diagnosed with A Fib in 2007.
"He's done really well from the A Fib standpoint, but he had a type of A Fib where some of the triggers were actually coming from his appendage," Dr. Horton said. "He's a fairly unusual case in that he was taking his blood thinners and despite all of those things, he had a stroke."
The WATCHMAN Implant is a permanent implant designed to close the LAA to keep harmful blood clots from the LAA from entering the blood stream. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.
"It allows us to provide some patients with a potentially life-changing treatment option which could eliminate the challenges of long-term warfarin therapy and, more importantly, reduce the risk of stroke," Dr. Horton said.
"I hope by implanting the WATCHMAN, it will keep me from having other strokes," Klein said.
The WATCHMAN was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 13, 2015, and it has been approved in Europe since 2005. (TCAI was involved in clinical trials to study its effectiveness in the United States for nearly a decade.)