A medical procedure that has been done for many years in Europe has recently been approved by the FDA. Nebraska Medicine in Omaha is the first hospital in the metro area to offer patients with irregular heartbeat, known as afib, a new device called the Watchman.
Dr. Jessica Delaney is a cardiac electrophysiologist at Nebraska Medicine and an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Delaney says people with afib have an increased risk of stroke and typically have to take a blood thinner medication to prevent blood clots. This device reduces or eliminates the need for that medication.
Dr. Delaney says, “It is kind of like a plug. In your heart you ave an area called the left atrial appendage. What happens to people that have atrial fibrillation, afib, is that clots can form in that area. it is kind of like a blind pouch. What the Watchman device does is sits in that opening and eventually tissue grows over that opening so the clots can no longer escape. It is those clots traveling through the body that can cause stroke.” That reduces the need to take long-term blood thinners that can have various interactions.
Dr. Delaney says this device has been used successfully on patients in Europe for several years on about 30,000 people. The FDA recently approved the procedure here in the U.S. Nebraska Medicine has implanted the device in three patients so far. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. It does require an overnight stay.