Legacy Health cardiologist first in Oregon to offer new stroke reduction device
Legacy Emanuel Medical Center is the only hospital in Oregon to offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation an alternative to long-term warfarin medication with the newly approved Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant.
“Atrial fibrillation affects five million Americans,” says Amish Desai, M.D., medical director of Legacy’s Structural Heart Program. “The Watchman device is a very low risk, minimally invasive treatment that greatly reduces their stroke risk. Instead of putting patients on blood thinners, it addresses the problem at its source.”
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). The heart condition can cause blood to pool and form clots in the left atrial appendage (LAA) which can then break loose and travel in the blood stream to the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body, potentially causing a stroke. The Watchman implant closes off the LAA and stops the harmful blood clots from leaving the heart.
Dr. Desai uses fluoroscopic guidance to send a catheter from the femoral vein to the right atrium. He then makes a small hole through the atrial septum, enabling the catheter to reach the LAA. Once there, he releases the Watchman through the catheter and opens the implant like an umbrella. A thin layer of tissue grows over it in about six weeks, preventing blood clots in the LAA from entering the bloodstream. The procedure takes about an hour and requires an overnight hospital stay.
“If there is no blood flow into the appendage, there is virtually no risk of blood clots forming,” Dr. Desai notes. “If any do form, they’re trapped by the device and aren’t able to travel to the brain.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Watchman in March 2015. Dr. Desai participated in the ten years of clinical trials leading up to the FDA clearance and now is one of only a handful of cardiologists to teach other physicians how to implant the device.