From left, Joylynn Nash, clinical advisor; Mark Borganelli, MD, FACC; Diego Alcivar, MD, FACC; Craig Thieling, MD, FACC; Allison Henderson, PA-C; C.T. White, WATCHMAN™ clinical specialist.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (December 16, 2021) – Earlier this month, cardiologists at Forrest General Hospital performed the 200th WATCHMAN™ procedure for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF). This procedure offers an alternative to long-term blood thinners.
Cardiologists at Forrest General Hospital began performing WATCHMAN™ procedures in October 2017. In 2020, the hospital became the first in the state since FDA approval to provide an updated, more user-friendly device known as the WATCHMAN FLX™.
Electrophysiologists, Mark Borganelli, MD, FACC, and Diego Alcivar, MD, FACC, along with Interventional Cardiologist, Craig Thieling, MD, FACC, all perform the procedure at Forrest General Hospital.
The procedure, which is not open heart surgery, is done through the right groin femoral vein in the leg with recovery taking a couple of days.
“This is a major milestone,” said Alcivar, who noted that by this time next year, they hope to have even more patients on the mend following additional procedures throughout the coming year. “We are barely seeing the tip of the iceberg on the patients who could potentially benefit from this great technology. Today in clinic, one of our follow-up patients told us that coming off blood thinners was ‘life changing’ and made her live life without the concern of falling while on blood thinners.”
The WATCHMAN FLX™ is the first FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with AF not caused by a heart valve problem. More than six million Americans are affected by AF – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering, racing heart.
The WATCHMAN™ technology, which has been implanted in more than 100,000 patients worldwide, 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 blood thinners. The newest version of the implant has an updated design to help treat more patients safely and effectively to ensure the best long-term outcomes.
A medical team consisting of Alcivar, Theiling, and Thad Waites, MD, FACC, conducted a flawless, first WATCHMAN FLX™ procedure in the state since accepted by the FDA in 2020. Lasting about an hour, the patient remained in the hospital overnight and went home the next day.
“This procedure is an alternative to blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation, who are at an increased risk of bleeding complications or have other reasons they cannot take blood thinners,” said Thieling. “The previous version, WATCHMAN 2.5™, which physicians have been using, is an excellent device and has been very successful; this just improves on that. It’s safer to implant with less complications. It provides more sizes, so we can close both smaller and larger sized appendages than we could before, which in turn, allows us to treat more patients.”
Alcivar said the implant is about the size of a quarter and provides more mobility with sizes ranging from 20mm to 35mm. “This new therapy is perfect for those people who didn’t have the capacity to receive the WATCHMAN 2.5™ implant that we were offering just a couple of months ago,” Alcivar said. “Approximately 98.8 percent of these type patients are able to get off blood thinners within six weeks.”
Forrest General has been using the WATCHMAN™ device for four years and has
implanted 208 devices; 106 have been implanted in the last year, according to Allison Henderson, PA-C. “For patients who need to come off blood thinners, this is a great alternative,” she said.
About Forrest General’s Cardiac Services
Forrest General’s Heart and Vascular Services delivers expert care from board-certified cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and vascular surgeons. Services range from diagnostic testing, heart surgery and structural heart treatment to interventional cardiology, cardiac rehabilitation and vascular treatment. To learn more about services, advanced treatment options, heart disease risks, signs and symptoms, visit www.forrestgeneral.com/heart.