Published on January 28, 2021

First WATCHMAN™ Devices Implanted At Genesis

The Genesis heart program marked a milestone January 22 when the first WATCHMAN™ implant procedures were performed in the Cath Lab at Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street.

WATCHMAN procedureThe implant is a minimally invasive, one-time procedure designed to reduce the risk of strokes that originate in the hearts of patients with atrial fibrillation. The procedures were performed by electrophysiologist Kelly Airey, M.D., FHRS, FACC, Cardiovascular Medicine, P.C.

Both patients who successfully received the implant were discharged after an overnight stay in the hospital and are scheduled for follow-up visits with Dr. Airey.
The common treatment for clot prevention for patients with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) is blood thinners, such as warfarin. However, blood thinners can produce side effects such as bleeding.

WATCHMAN™ is considered to be an alternative for patients who are unable to tolerate long-term use of blood thinners.

WATCHMAN™ is implanted inside the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart. The device, made of metal alloy with a fabric cover, looks like a tiny umbrella. It expands when deployed and closes off the LAA to prevent any clots formed from entering the blood stream, where they can travel and cause stroke. During the
weeks after the implant, heart tissue grows over the WATCHMAN™ and the LAA is permanently sealed.

“WATCHMAN™ is a device that has proven to be safe and 90 percent effective in stroke prevention without the side effects and inconvenience of use of blood thinners,” says Dr. Airey. “We have so many people that are in need of the WATCHMAN™ device.

“It’s a minimally invasive procedure where we go through the right groin into the femoral vein and up into the heart using a guidewire and catheters to deploy the device into the left atrial appendage. It’s a pretty quick procedure and you stay overnight and go home the next day.”

With more than 150,000 patients implanted globally, almost 20 years of clinical-trial and real-world experience -- including over 10 clinical trials -- WATCHMAN™ is the most studied LAA closure device. Data show that 92 percent of patients are able to discontinue their use of warfarin after 45 days, while 99 percent of patients discontinue warfarin use after one year.

Blair Foreman, M.D., FACC, electrophysiologist, Cardiovascular Medicine, P.C., says most patients are able to return to normal activity in a week or less.

“It really is a game-changer,” says Dr. Foreman, who also will be performing the WATCHMAN™ procedure at Genesis. “Nationwide, this device has been available for a time, and now our institution is offering it because we feel that for many, many people, there’s no other way to give them good protection from clots that form as a result of atrial fibrillation.”

The availability of the WATCHMAN™ device at Genesis builds on the structural heart program, which treats defects in the heart’s valves, wall or chambers. As part of the program, Genesis also offers Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly.  

“If you’re wondering if you’re a candidate for WATCHMAN™, if you know you have atrial fibrillation and you have a history of bleeding and you can’t take any of the anticoagulant medications, by all means talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Airey. “We can do an evaluation and determine if you’re an appropriate candidate for the device.”

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