Health Check: New device to help with Atrial Fibrillation

Health Check: New device to help with Atrial Fibrillation

A new device may help eliminate the use of blood thinners for folks at high risk of stroke. And it’s now being offered in Rhode Island.

This FDA approved device has proven to be effective in patients with atrial fibrillation.

It looks like a tiny parachute but it’s mighty in helping prevent stroke in patients with a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, or A-fib.

"Atrial fibrillation is an electrical condition of the heart where the electrical signal, the top chambers of the heart become very chaotic and it results in a number of different problems. One, which is many people are at high risk of developing blood clots that could lead to stroke," said Rhode Island Hospital cardiologist, Dr. Antony Chu. He says the problem occurs in a pouch that hangs off the top left chamber of the heart.

"It’s sort of like an appendix, it really doesn't do anything functionally but most of the clot that forms in atrial fibrillation occurs in this pouch," said Chu.

And that's where the device, known as the watchman, comes in to play. It is deployed, minimally invasive to the appendage, essentially plugging up the hole.

Seventy-six-year-old Louis Campagnone is the first patient to receive this at Rhode Island Hospital.

"My cardiologist recommended that I would be a candidate for this because of all the side effects of the blood thinners," said Campagnone.

"When you put patients on a blood thinner, that can help you prevent a clot,” added Chu. “The problem is that the same blood thinners can also predispose you to bleeding."

Campagnone had his device implanted in May.

"It's a relief because he has more protection with the watchman, I think, than the blood thinner," said Campagnone’s wife, Jeanette.

And Chu says the literature bears this out.

"There actually have been, over sort of ten years’ worth of studies now looking at outcomes of patients who have received these devices and been able to get off their blood thinners," said Chu.

"The people with this type of device live longer."

Dr. Chu says pretty much anyone who qualifies for blood thinners is a candidate for the watchman device. It must be noted, Charlton Hospital in Fall River is also implanting this device.

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