(BPT) - In preparation for a routine surgery, Marie Tarvin realized that something serious was going on with her heart. Surprise, fear and uncertainty flooded Marie’s mind as she was told that she had an irregular heartbeat during a pre-operation exam for a hip replacement. After a series of follow-up tests and an electrocardiogram (EKG), the 80-year-old Dadeville, Alabama resident found out she had atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Her initial thoughts were, ‘How will this affect my overall health? Will I still be able to go boating with my husband and play with my grandchildren?’ Though Marie was somewhat familiar with AFib, as her husband Robert had previously been diagnosed with the condition, she was worried about what the diagnosis meant for her and how her life might change.
Marie and her husband are among the more than five million Americans with AFib, the most common heart rhythm disorder.[i] But having a heart out of rhythm is not the only challenge facing people with AFib. The condition puts people at higher risk of experiencing a stroke - five times more likely compared to those who don’t have AFib.[ii] Because the heart does not beat properly in people with AFib, blood may not fully pump out of the heart, resulting in the formation of blood pooling and then clotting in a pouch in the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). In some cases, the blood clots can break away from this pouch and move to the brain, causing a stroke.
Like Marie, some people with AFib won’t experience any symptoms and their condition remains undetected. Others sometimes experience chest pain, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath or feel like their heart is racing.
After her diagnosis, Marie’s doctor prescribed a daily blood-thinning medicine to reduce her chances of having a stroke. But the medicine required dietary restrictions, blood count monitoring every other week and could cause bleeding or bruising. Marie experienced challenges with taking the medicine and went back to her doctor to discuss whether she was a candidate for the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant, a device alternative to blood-thinning medications that her husband received earlier the same year. She hoped it could give her more flexibility to live a normal life again.
The WATCHMAN LAAC Implant, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March, 2015, is the first non-pill-based alternative for reducing the risk of stroke in people with AFib not related to heart valve disease. The one-time implant is as small as a quarter, doesn’t have to be replaced and has an average recovery time of 24 hours.
“WATCHMAN is a breakthrough alternative that I recommend for many of my patients, like Marie, who have AFib and are seeking a non-drug alternative,” says Dr. Kevin Ryan, MD. “Knowing Marie’s lifestyle, I felt this implant would be a good fit for her, allowing her the freedom to resume her daily activities without the restrictions commonly inflicted by medications.”
After the implant procedure and one-night hospital stay, Marie returned home. Today, she and her husband are free of taking a daily blood thinning medicine and are enjoying hobbies like boating and fishing without concern.
“Because I no longer have to worry about bruising or bleeding as a side effect from the medicine, I’m able to spend time doing the things I enjoy with family and loved ones, like camping and being on the lake,” says Marie. “But most importantly, I still have the peace of mind that this implant reduces my risk of stroke.”
For more information about AFib, risk of stroke and the WATCHMAN Implant, and to find a doctor in your area, go to www.watchman.com.
The WATCHMAN Device is a permanent implant designed to close the left atrial appendage in the heart in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke. With all medical procedures, there are risks associated with the implant procedure and the use of the device. The risks include but are not limited to accidental heart puncture, air embolism, allergic reaction, anemia, anesthesia risks, arrhythmias, AV (Arteriovenous) fistula, bleeding or throat pain from the TEE (Trans Esophageal Echo) probe, blood clot or air bubbles in the lungs or other organs, bruising at the catheter insertion site, clot formation on the WATCHMAN™ Closure Device, cranial bleed, excessive bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, groin puncture bleed, hypotension, infection/pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema, pulmonary vein obstruction, renal failure, stroke, thrombosis and transient ischemic attack. In rare cases death can occur. Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with the implantation of the WATCHMAN Device.
[i] Colilla et al., Am J Cardiol. 2013; 112:1142-1147
[ii] Holmes DR, Seminars in Neurology 2010; 30:528–536