Small Device has Big Implications

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Small Device has Big Implications
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Small Device Has Big Implications For Patients At Mclaren Flint With Atrial Fibrillation

Patients who are at high risk for stroke and cannot take blood thinners long-term may be eligible for a new, minimally invasive treatment option. McLaren Flint is among the first hospitals in the region to offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) an alternative to long-term Warfarin medication with the newly approved WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant.

Dozens of McLaren Flint patients have already benefited from this treatment option including Herman Flynn, age 88, of Grand Blanc. Herman is high risk for falling due to the neuropathy in his legs which causes numbness and weakness. He went from falling a couple of times per week to almost daily in late 2017 and early 2018. Fortunately, his electrophysiologist, Mustafa Hassan, MD, FACC, FHRS, is one of four heart specialists at McLaren Flint who is trained to use the Watchman LAAC Implant.

“Dr. Hassan told my wife, Jean, and me about the implant and we spoke to our family about it,” states Herman. “They researched it for us and we decided I should have the procedure. I cannot believe how easy the recovery was. I feel so relieved. I am free of the anxiety of falling and worrying that I will be subject to a blood clot that could cause a stroke.”

For patients with AF who are considered suitable for Warfarin by their physicians but who have reason to seek a non-drug alternative, the WATCHMAN LAAC Implant is a treatment option to reduce their risk of AF-related stroke. The WATCHMAN Implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream 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 Warfarin.

“People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke,” states Dr. Hassan. “Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to pool and form clots in the LAA. For patients with non-valvular AF, the LAA is believed to be the source of the majority of stroke-causing blood clots, which can break loose and travel in the blood stream to the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body. The Watchman implant is a welcome treatment option for these high risk stroke patients.”

Implanting the WATCHMAN device is a one-time procedure performed through a small incision in the groin, in a heart catheterization lab. It usually lasts about an hour. The device is made of nitinol (nickel and titanium) which the heart will grow tissue around over time; completely plugging the opening to the LAA. Following the procedure, patients need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours.

Visit mclaren.org/flint/cardiac-care to see videos about atrial fibrillation and how the WATCHMAN device is placed in the heart.

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