Bronson Offers Next Generation Heart Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation
Standing on stage in front of a crowd. Meeting someone for the first time. All of us have moments in our lives when we feel like our heart is skipping a beat or racing rapidly. However, when this is a regular occurrence, it’s not something we can or should chalk up to nerves. According to the American Heart Association, 2.7 million Americans feel these symptoms of atrial fibrillation, or AFib, on an all too familiar basis.
What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?
AFib is an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, that can lead to blood clots, stroke or other heart conditions. The heart is comprised of four chambers, two upper and two lower. During atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, the atria, beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers, the ventricles. This rapid heart rate is what causes symptoms like shortness of breath, racing heart, weakness and lightheadedness.
Atrial fibrillation is not life threatening, in and of itself, but it is a serious condition. It can lead to other heart-related problems and most importantly, greatly increases the chance of stroke. When the heart doesn’t pump as it should, blood can collect and form clots. If these clots leave the heart, they can cut off blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke. For this reason, patients are put on blood thinners to reduce the chance of stroke. Unfortunately, blood thinners can cause other problems.
For patients with AFib that is not caused by a heart valve problem, there is a one-time procedure called WATCHMAN that is an alternative to blood thinners. WATCHMAN is a FDA-approved implant that can reduce the risk of stroke without increasing the risk of bleeding that can occur with blood thinners.
Bronson is now offering the second generation of WATCHMAN, called WATCHMAN FLX. This second generation of WATCHMAN offers greater flexibility to help even more patients who may not have qualified for the original WATCHMAN implant. Bronson is currently the only healthcare system in southwest Michigan that has been approved to offer this implant.
What are the dangers of blood thinners?
The blood in the body is naturally designed to clot. Blood clotting helps seal wounds and keeps us from losing too much blood. Blood thinners keep the blood from clotting as it normally would. Those on blood thinners have to be very careful about injuring themselves. A cut or bruise can bleed much more in patients on blood thinners. In addition, any injury may cause internal bleeding. Injuries to the head are particularly worrisome.
Doctors may require regular blood tests for patients using some types of blood thinners. Blood thinners may also interfere with some medications and supplements. It is best to review all existing medications and supplements with your doctor and don’t start taking new supplements without speaking with your doctor first.
How does WATCHMAN work?
In patients with AFib, blood clots most commonly occur in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). The WATCHMAN Implant fits into the LAA, blocking blood clots from leaving the area and traveling to other parts of the body. Closing this appendage is an effective way to reduce the stroke risk for patients with AFib that is not caused by a heart valve problem.
WATCHMAN does not require open-heart surgery. Similar to a stent procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube. The surgeon then guides the WATCHMAN Implant through the tube and into the left atrial appendage. After the procedure, tissue will begin to grow over the implant, creating a permanent barrier. Patients stay on blood thinners until the left atrial appendage is completely closed off, on average about 45 days.
How effective is WATCHMAN?
WATCHMAN has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and the risk of bleeding associated with long-term use of blood thinners. It has been used for over a decade on more than 150,000 patients. Bronson has been successfully performing the WATCHMAN procedure for three years.
For those who suffer from AFib, WATCHMAN may help to leave stroke risk and bleeding worries behind them. If you would like to learn more about the WATCHMAN procedure and whether you may qualify for this procedure, speak with your doctor or contact the Bronson Structural Heart Program Coordinator at (269) 341-8630 for further information or a screening.