Lake Charles, LA – CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital’s John and Sylvia Stelly Heart Center has a team of cardiologists, which includes Dr. Richard Gilmore, Dr. Corey Foster, Dr. Jake LeBeau, and Dr. Thomas Mulhearn, performed the first implant of the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device on a patient with atrial fibrillation (AF) at the John and Sylvia Stelly Regional Heart Center. The WATCHMAN procedure was the first in SWLA, offering an alternative to the lifelong use of warfarin for people with AF not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AF). Since the first, performed in late Fall, they have successfully completed 15 more of this procedure.
An estimated five million Americans are affected by AF – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart. People with AF have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. The WATCHMAN device 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.
“The WATCHMAN LAAC Implant provides physicians with a breakthrough stroke risk reduction option for patients with non-valvular AF,” said Dr. Gilmore. “For patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation who are seeking an alternative to warfarin, the WATCHMAN Implant offers a potentially life-changing treatment option which could free them from the challenges of long-term warfarin therapy. We are excited to add WATCHMAN to an already wide array of treatment options that we currently offer to patients with AF.”
The WATCHMAN device has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide and is done in a one-time procedure. It’s a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
“People with atrial fibrillation are at significant risk of stroke, which can have a serious emotional and psychological effect on them,” said Mellanie True Hills, founder and chief executive officer, StopAfib.org, a patient advocacy organization for those living with Afib. “Thus, it is important for them to be aware of and understand recent medical advances and treatments that can help with stroke prevention.”
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About Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (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 more than five million Americans.3 Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with AF, and AF-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling.1,2 The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning warfarin medication. Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications. Nearly half of AF patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues. For more information on the WATCHMAN device, please visit: www.watchman.com.