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Palmetto Health debuts ‘game-changer’ device to treat heart disease

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Palmetto Health Heart Hospital has begun offering the Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) implant, a device to treat heart disease.

The device offers an alternative to people with atrial fibrillation caused by non-heart valve problems. The implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots from forming and causing stroke.

 “This is a game-changer for patients for who have atrial fibrillation yet cannot tolerate typical blood-thinning agents,” said Todd Senn, a physician with Columbia Heart. “I think it will benefit thousands of patients in area and millions across country.”

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 5 million Americans.

Studies show that 20% 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.

Patients taking blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) long term should speak with their physician to see if the Watchman device is right for them.

Implanting the device is a one-time procedure that usually lasts about an hour. Following the procedure, patients typically stay in the hospital for approximately 24 hours.

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