Spectrum Health Cardiologists Perform 600th WATCHMAN Implant

Device the size of a quarter prevents stroke-causing blood clots from traveling to the brain

Courtesy of Boston Scientific

May 27, 2021

Grand Rapids, Mich., May 27, 2021 – Spectrum Health physicians recently implanted the organization’s 600th WATCHMAN device. The device seals the left atrial appendage of the heart, preventing blood clots caused by atrial fibrillation from traveling to the brain where they can cause stroke.

The WATCHMAN (produced by Boston Scientific) is a catheter-delivered, parachute-shaped implant about the size of a quarter. The device is inserted into the heart through a catheter placed into a vein in the leg during a one-time, minimally invasive procedure in a cardiac catheterization lab.

The first such procedure at Spectrum Health was performed by Duane C. Berkompas, MD, Musa Dahu, MD, and Michael McNamara, MD, physicians with Spectrum Health Cardiovascular Medicine, in June of 2015.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common heart rhythm disorder, said Dr. Dahu, affecting more than five million Americans. The condition leads to a five-fold increase in stroke risk because it can cause the formation of blood clots in the heart’s left chamber. These clots can break loose and travel to the brain, lungs and other parts of the body.

Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with the condition.

The most common treatment to reduce the risk of stroke is the use of blood-thinning medications. While their purpose is to prevent the formation of clots, in some cases the medications can lead to excessive blood loss and even death.

Dr. Berkompas said that blood thinning medications are not well tolerated in some patients and can cause significant bleeding complications.

“As a result, nearly half of those eligible for medications are currently untreated,” said Dr. Berkompas. “The WATCHMAN device is designed for atrial fibrillation patients who can’t use blood thinners because of the increased risk of bleeding complications.”

The device allows patients to stop taking blood-thinning medication within months of undergoing the implant.

Spectrum Health currently has four physicians implanting this device. A second-generation WATCHMAN with an even higher success and safety rate has been implanted at Spectrum Health since late 2020.

It is, however, just one important device in the battle against AFib.

“At Spectrum Health, we offer a streamlined approach to our full continuum of treatment offerings for AFib,” said Dr. Dahu. “We have access to the latest technologies for AFib ablation to help eliminate symptoms, to addressing stroke risk with medications or device therapy.”

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