It is estimated that between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common type of treated heart arrhythmia. When a patient has AFib, the normal beating within the upper chambers of the heart is irregular, and blood does not flow as it should to the lower chambers. This can cause irregular heartbeats that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
Advancing the way it treats this common heart condition, Adena Health System is now offering the minimally invasive Watchman procedure to its line of close-to-home heart treatments. According to Adena Chief of Cardiology Dr. Arnold Good, the Watchman device is designed to prevent blood clots from forming during episodes of AFib, and keeping clots from migrating from the heart to other parts of the body.
When initially diagnosed with AFib, a patient’s first line of treatment is often the introduction of a blood thinner to lower the risk of stroke. However, some patients are poor candidates for long-term anticoagulation due to problems like bleeding or fall risk. For these patients an alternative to long-term anticoagulation is needed. That is where the next-level treatment with the Watchman device can come into play.
“Watchman is an extremely well-studied device in medical literature, and it has high safety profiles,” Good said, noting Watchman has “an efficacy rating of more than 99 percent.”
The procedure takes place in the heart catheterization lab, with the Watchman device implanted through a vein in the groin. The patient typically goes home the next day. Recovery is usually quick, with patients getting back to their normal routine within a matter of days.
“It’s exciting to provide this level of care for patients in our local community,” said Good. “The ability to add Watchman technology is important in Adena’s vision to provide our patients with the best medical care possible for the region, in a facility that is close to home and family. It is a powerful thing.”
Another treatment used by Adena cardiologists to treat AFib is cryotherapy ablation. Cryo ablation is a freezing technique used in patients who have failed medical therapy for AFib. Cryo Ablation scars the inside of the heart, essentially destroying cells in the area of the heart that is causing the patient’s AFib.
Cryo ablation is minimally invasive and performed with general anesthesia. During the procedure, a cryo balloon is delivered to the heart through a vein in the patient’s groin. Once in the left upper chamber (atria), where AFib starts, the physician inflates the balloon and sends a liquid refrigerant into it. This freezes a portion of the atrial wall and stops the electrical impulses responsible for atrial fibrillation. Despite a part of the heart’s interior being scarred, cryotherapy ablation causes no functional damage to the organ.
However, ablation is not for every patient. To be a candidate for the procedure, that patient must have symptomatic drug-resistant AFib, meaning the symptoms impact the person’s quality of life. The procedure has a 70 to 80 percent effectiveness in controlling AFib, and may require multiple procedures. Dr. John Keller is the lead physician for this position and notes how exciting it is to improve patient’s lives with this technology.
Adena is building its structural heart program to serve patients throughout South Central and Southern Ohio as AFib and other heart conditions become even more common as the U.S. population ages.
To schedule an appointment with Adena cardiology, call 740-779-4570. For more information visit www.adena.org/cardiology.
Submitted by Jason Gilham, communications manager, Adena Health System.