Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute introduces left atrial appendage closure procedure

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – The Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute at Adventist Health St. Helena performed the Institute’s first implant of the WATCHMAN left atrial appendage closure device on a patient with atrial fibrillation.

Adventist Health St. Helena is one of the only medical centers in the North Bay to offer the WATCHMAN device as an alternative to the lifelong use of oral anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin, Xarelto and Eliquis, for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular atrial fibrillation).

The first procedure was performed in the cardiac catheterization lab at the hospital on Oct. 22.

An estimated five million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart. People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms.

The WATCHMAN device closes off a blind pouch of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA, to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the bloodstream 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 or other blood thinners.

“The WATCHMAN device is a novel alternative for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation at risk for a stroke, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners,” said Dr. Monica Divakaruni, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of the hospital’s structural heart program. “I’m proud we are offering this option as it provides patients with potentially life-saving stroke risk treatment.”

The WATCHMAN device has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide and is done in a one-time procedure. It is 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.

At the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute, the WATCHMAN implant physician team is led by Dr. Divakaruni, interventional cardiologist Dr. Stewart Allen and cardiac electrophysiologists Dr. Daniel Kaiser and Dr. Peter Chang-Sing. Structural heart coordinator Christina Dovas, NP-BC, provides dedicated support, including patient education and facilitating communication between physicians, patients and referring providers.

The multidisciplinary structural heart team at the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute is made up of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, a dedicated nurse coordinator, highly skilled cardiac nurses, anesthesiologists and imaging professionals that collaborate to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients with atrial fibrillation or other structural heart conditions. Together, they are unified by a vision to help patients access new advances in treating these conditions to improve their quality of life.

Patients or physicians interested in learning more about the WATCHMAN procedure can call the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute at 707-963-6322 or can visit www.adventistheart.org.

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