Preventing Strokes with WATCHMAN

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) is the first hospital in the Southeast, and third commercially in the United States, to implant the WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure device since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2015. The WATCHMAN device offers patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (Afib) an alternative to long-term anticoagulation therapy (blood thinners such as warfarin) used to reduce the risk of stroke. Afib is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart to beat too fast and irregularly. Patients with Afib have a five times greater risk of stroke. Once implanted, the WATCHMAN device keeps harmful blood clots from entering the blood stream from the left atrial appendage, the most common source for blood clots in Afib patients, in turn reducing the risk of stroke.

“Afib patients on anticoagulation therapy should avoid occupations and extreme sports that have a higher risk of injury due to the increased risk of bruising and bleeding,” said Farhat Khairallah, MD, FACC, FHRS, Electrophysiologist at Tallahassee Memorial Heart & Vascular Center. “The WATCHMAN device gives patients an alternative to these medications so they can enjoy activities like cycling, skiing and racquetball more safely.”

The WATCHMAN device is placed during a minimally invasive procedure performed in the cardiac catheterization lab. Dr. Farhat Khairallah, Dr. Wayne Batchelor and Dr. Venkata Bavikati are the only three physicians in the Tallahassee area trained to place the WATCHMAN device. After the procedure, patients typically have a short stay in the hospital and over 94% of the time can stop warfarin medication after 45 days.

“At TMH, we have been expanding our heart treatment options to bring the most advanced procedures possible to our patients,” said Wayne Batchelor, MD, MHS, FACC, FSCAI, Interventional Cardiologist at Tallahassee Memorial Heart & Vascular Center. “Patients do not need to leave Tallahassee for excellent heart care. In fact, patients across the Southeast now travel to TMH to receive innovative and state of the art treatments.”

To learn more about this procedure and the advanced care available for patients with atrial fibrillation, please contact 850-431-AFIB (2342).