First Hospital in Volusia County with an Innovative Heart Implant to Reduce Stroke Risk

Stethoscope in the shape of a heart
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 10, 2017 Patients with both atrial fibrillation (a medical condition where the heart beats too fast and with irregular rhythm) and a high risk for bleeds (such as the elderly, or those with a history of bleeds or hemorrhagic strokes) have a higher risk of strokes. Historically, these patients were presented with a frightening dilemma: take a prescribed anticoagulant medication to reduce the risk of stroke, but then see an increase risk of bleeds, or decline to take the medication and run the risk of developing a stroke.

Now, these patients have a new lifesaving option at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach: the Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) implant.

FDA approved in February 2016, this implant closes off an area of the heart, called the left atrial appendage, and keeps harmful blood clots from entering the blood-stream and potentially causing a stroke.

People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke as it is. That's why these patients should be taking an anticoagulant medication to reduce their risk of a stroke, said Candace Acabbo, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center structural heart and special procedures registered nurse navigator. About 90 percent of strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation originate from the left atrial appendage where the blood can pool and form clots which then can break off, causing a stroke.

In our area, we have an older population and atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, which currently affects more than 5 million Americans. The Watchman implant doesn't treat atrial fibrillation, but rather it reduces the risk of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation, said Christian Fisher, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center director of cardiovascular services. Each year, nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer from a stroke. Of this, about 20 percent occur in patients with atrial fibrillation, and because of their condition, their strokes can be more frequently fatal and disabling. This is why these patients should be taking anticoagulant medication to reduce their risk. Unfortunately, nearly half of atrial fibrillation patients aren't taking this medication due to tolerance and adherence issues.

Only 126 hospitals in the country are trained and able to perform this potentially lifesaving procedure and Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is the first hospital in Volusia County to offer patients this treatment option.

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Dinesh Arab, electrophysiologist Dr. Hanscy Seide, and electrophysiologist Dr. Huijian James Wang are all performing this procedure at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

Jerry Preston, 73, of Edgewater was the first patient to receive this implant at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center on October 5, two days before Hurricane Matthew hit the area.

Diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in the 1990s, Preston had long struggled with his anticoagulant medication.

Sometimes it seemed like if I just looked at myself, Id bleed, he said.

A CT scan had revealed he'd unknowingly had three transient ischemic attacks (TIA), more informally known as mini-strokes. Knowing his family history his mother had strokes and heart conditions and his father passed away at 65 after undergoing a procedure to replace a heart valve Preston was concerned for his health.

When Dr. Wang told me about Watchman and asked if I was interested, I just said sure it would get me off the [anticoagulant medication], he said.

Now that the implant has been successful, Preston is looking forward to relying only on a daily aspirin, instead of taking the medication to control his risk of strokes.

I'm a happy camper! he exclaimed with a chuckle. You cant slow me down. And it is a big load off the wife's mind too.

About Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center

Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is a member of Adventist Health System, a faith-based health care organization with 46 hospital campuses and nearly 8,200 licensed beds in 10 states. Our locations include Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach and Florida Hospital Oceanside in Ormond Beach, as well as outpatient facilities in Port Orange, Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach. With 277-beds, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is one of the six Florida Hospitals in Volusia and Flagler counties that composes the Florida Hospital East Florida Region. As the largest hospital system in the area, the Florida Hospital East Florida Region has 907 beds and more than 6,000 employees. With a mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ, the Florida Hospital East Florida Region collectively contributed nearly $120 million in benefits in 2015 to the underprivileged, the community's overall health and wellness and spiritual needs, and capital improvements. For more information about Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, visit

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