Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute was the first hospital in Tampa to offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib) an alternative to long-term warfarin medication with the newly approved WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant. Since first offering the procedure in April of 2015, Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute doctors successfully implanted the Watchman device in four patients, significantly improving their odds of avoiding a stroke associated with their heart rhythm issues.
AFib affects an estimated five million people in the United States and is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly. Although the condition itself isn't life threatening, one in three people who have AFib will suffer a stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
There's a pocket of tissue in the heart called the left atrial appendage. With the irregular heartbeats associated with AFib, blood isn't pumped out of the heart efficiently, causing it to collect in that pocket. This creates a dangerous condition in which the blood may clot and travel to the brain, causing a stroke, says Kenneth Yamamura, MD, an electrophysiologist who is specially trained to implant the WATCHMAN device at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute. Strokes that occur because of AFib are more frequently fatal or disabling.
To lower the risk for stroke, patients with AFib are typically prescribed blood thinners such as warfarin, which affect the bloods ability to clot. For patients who have reason to seek a non-drug alternative, the WATCHMAN LAAC Implant is available to reduce their risk of AFib-related stroke. The WATCHMAN Implant closes off the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots from the LAA from entering the blood stream. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.
There can be issues with the use of blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, including a chance of heavy bleeding, interactions with other medications, and certain medical conditions that can prevent people from safely taking them, says Asad Sawar, MD, who also performs the WATCHMAN procedure at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute. For patients who cannot take these medications, the WATCHMAN is a clinically proven, potentially life-saving alternative.
Implanting the WATCHMAN Device is a one-time procedure that usually lasts about an hour. It is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn't require open-heart surgery. Following the procedure, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours.
We are excited to offer this one-of-a-kind treatment at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute, said Thomas Nicosia, Assistant Vice President of Cardiovascular Services at Florida Hospital Tampa. For more than 20 years, Pepin Heart has been at the forefront of innovative cardiovascular care. The WATCHMAN is another example of how were bringing the latest technology, procedures, and expertise to the Tampa Bay community.