Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital recently treated its 1,000th patient using the Watchman™ implant to help reduce stroke risk in people with atrial fibrillation (AFib) not caused by a heart valve problem.

Sometimes known as irregular heartbeat, AFib is a common heart disorder that occurs when electrical signals in the heart become irregular, causing the heart’s upper chamber to beat out of rhythm. AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

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During the minimally invasive procedure, the Watchman device is implanted to permanently close off the left atrial appendage, the area of the heart where stroke-causing blood clots commonly form. The device is passed through a catheter in a vein, then deployed into the heart.

“Without this procedure, these patients would need to be placed on blood thinners for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Akil Loli, an interventional cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “It allows us to slowly take them off the anti-coagulation therapy to reduce the risks associated with the long-term use of these medications.”

On Oct. 7, 2021, a 74-year-old Casa Grande resident became the 1,000th patient to have the Watchman procedure at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. The device was implanted by Dr. Loli, who said the patient will start being weaned off his current blood-thinning medication 45 days after the procedure.

At least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib, according to the American Heart Association. They are at increased risk of stroke if they are not on blood thinners, which can also increase the risk of bleeding. This can often result in higher mortality and disability rates because of an injury to the brain or other affected areas, according to Dr. Loli.

Physicians at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital participated in FDA studies of the first-generation Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device. In 2020, they began offering the updated Watchman FLX™ device.

“Treating our 1,000th patient with this procedure represents a significant milestone for our program and our hospital,” said Dr. Loli. “Treating a high number of patients with the device affirms the advanced knowledge and quality medical treatment we have achieved in performing the Watchman procedure at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.”

“Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital has a long history of bringing new developments in medicine to Arizona. We are proud to offer this option for treating patients who are at high risk for stroke,” added Phil Fitzgerald, president of Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “Even during the pandemic, your health can’t wait. Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital is committed to providing a safe environment for patients needing comprehensive cardiovascular care.”

For more information on cardiovascular procedures and stroke treatment at Abrazo hospitals, visit AbrazoHealth.com.