New device could prevent strokes in those with irregular heartbeat

A new device — the Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device — looks almost like a tiny parachute and is in effect a safety net. The investigational device was developed to lower the risk of stroke in patients who have an irregular heartbeat and require blood thinning medications.

Grant Simons, MD, Chief of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Englewood Hospital, implanted the first Watchman device in New Jersey as part of a national clinical trial involving this alternative treatment method.

In a press release from Englewood Hospital, Simons said, “This is an exciting innovation in the treatment of arrhythmia and stroke. The adoption of this procedure and technology greatly reduce the need for blood thinning medications and decrease the number of strokes in this at-risk patient population.”

The device works to catch blood clots that form in the heart and enter the blood stream. There is an increased risk of this occurring with patients with the arrhythmia disorder Atrial Fibrillation — a disorder that affects five million people in the U.S. Atrial Fibrillation causes the pooling of blood in the upper chambers of the heart, which can lead to blood clots that in turn can break loose and travel to the brain. The end result can be a stroke.

The Watchman is currently in a clinical trial at Englewood and several other hospitals. One benefit of the device is that implanting it is a minimally invasive procedure. A small incision is made near the groin, then the device is guided through a catheter up to the patient’s heart.

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