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PeaceHealth SW and The Vancouver Clinic offer newly approved WATCHMAN™ implant for patients with atrial fibrillation

Cardiologists with PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and The Vancouver Clinic (TVC) are among the first in the Pacific Northwest and northern California to offer the Watchman™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure device for treatment of non-valvular atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

Beginning Thursday, Oct. 29, PeaceHealth Southwest will be the first site between Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle, Wash., (and as far east as Salt Lake City, Utah) to offer the implant.

The Watchman implant, which was recently approved by the U.S Federal Drug Administration, offers patients with atrial fibrillation an alternative to the blood-thinning medication, warfarin, and helps significantly reduce the risk of stroke caused by the heart condition. The small, umbrella-like device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, and helps prevent harmful blood clots from entering the bloodstream where they can travel to the brain and cause strokes.

Surgeons offering the procedure include Dr. Ben John with TVC, and Drs. Jonathan Lowy and James Reiss with PeaceHealth Southwest.

“The Watchman implant represents a great step forward in our ability to treat atrial fibrillation,” said James Reiss, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist at PeaceHealth Southwest. “Advances in ablation technology in the past four years have helped us significantly reduce the amount of atrial fibrillation experienced by our patients. Now we will be able to reduce the risk of stroke without the use of warfarin, which will improve patient safety for those who cannot, or should not, take the medication.”

According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, more than 90 percent of patients were able to stop taking warfarin medication within 45 days of receiving the Watchman implant, and 99 percent stopped within a year.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with the heart condition.

“The Watchman device is a game-changer in stroke prevention for patients with atrial fibrillation in Portland and Southwest Washington,” said Ben John, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist at The Vancouver Clinic. “Warfarin certainly has its place in stroke prevention. However, its long-term use can result in potential serious bleeding complications, and many patients are left untreated due to concern over potential complications. The Vancouver Clinic and PeaceHealth are pleased to provide an effective alternative to warfarin for patients with atrial fibrillation.”

The Watchmen device, which is about the size of a quarter, is inserted via catheter and does not require open-heart surgery. The procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia and lasts about an hour. To learn more about the procedure, visit PeaceHealth Southwest’s website, or call 360-514-6978.


About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with AF, and AF-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning warfarin medication. Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients and carries a significant risk for bleeding complications. Nearly half of AF patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.