Are you on blood thinners for AFib? Are you finding that after long-term use, you’re bleeding and bruising more often? If so, you should speak to your physician about your bleeding issues, as these can be life-threatening and even cause bleeding in the brain, which can lead to imminent death. Individuals with AFib have a 5X greater risk of stroke than those individuals not suffering from AFib.
If you have AFib not caused by a heart valve issue, you may be eligible for an innovative procedure that will prevent strokes and get you off of blood thinners permanently. The WATCHMAN procedure, which is an implantable left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) device, has proven to be a highly effective procedure to reduce the risk of stroke.
Because of the restriction and erratic heartbeat in patients with non-valvular AFib, their blood commonly pools into the left atrial appendage (LAA). The pooling of the blood causes clots to form in the left atrial appendage (LAA), which is extremely dangerous. The clots can break away and travel through the bloodstream directly toward the brain and cause a blockage. When a clot blocks the blood flow to the brain, a stroke will follow due to the obstructed supply of oxygen and blood. That is why individuals with AFib must be on blood thinners. However, the WATCHMAN procedure can save lives by preventing the clots from forming, and the one-time treatment gets people off of blood thinners permanently.
How does it work?
It works similarly to a vascular stent, but instead of opening a valve, it closes and occludes the left atrial appendage (LAA), so that no blood clots can form. It’s a tiny device that’s guided to the heart through a small incision in the upper thigh area. The patients are under general anesthesia during the treatment, and the entire procedure usually takes less than an hour.
After the procedure, patients will be required to stay on blood thinners for approximately 45 days. This gives the small implanted device time to occlude the left atrial appendage (LAA) area completely as heart muscle and tissue grow over it.
Symptoms of AFib:
• Chest tightness or pain
• Extremely fatigued and lethargic
• Fluttering heart sensation
• Heart palpitations
• Shortness of breath
• High blood pressure
• Congestive Heart Failure
• Lung problems
• Sleep apnea
• Stimulants (alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco)
• Extreme Stress
Sidney Peykar, M.D., FACC
Dr. Sidney Peykar is a cardiac electrophysiologist (EP), and independent member of the medical staff at Bayfront Health Port Charlotte. He has performed more than 2,500 EP procedures and more than 4,000 cardiac ablations during his career and will perform more than 400 atrial fibrillation ablations this year. On average, he and his team perform 5 to 6 WATCHMAN procedures per day.
We caught up with Dr. Peykar to find out more about AFib and the WATCHMAN procedure.
Q: Who is a good candidate for the procedure?
A: Any patient that can’t take blood thinners long term due to bleeding issues is a good candidate for the WATCHMAN. Some of the reason for this include, risk of falling, jobs or activities that warrant a high risk of injury, angiomas in the brain, gastrointestinal bleeding, or other bleeding disorders.
Q: What are the most common causes of AFib, and what should patients know about their overall health and arrhythmias?
A: Aging is a common cause of AFib; 10 percent of individuals over the age of 80 develop AFib. High blood pressure and sleep apnea are also warning indicators of developing AFib. Hypertension and sleep apnea are both exacerbated by the obesity epidemic in our country. However, they are both preventable with proper treatment.
Many patients don’t check their blood pressure in between doctor’s appointments and fail to realize that they have hypertension, which can quickly reach high-risk levels. With sleep apnea, many people are reluctant to use a CPAP machine. There are other options to control sleep apnea, such as a dental device that opens the airway.
If a person is in and out of AFib without knowing it or without getting it treated, they will develop persistent AFib, which puts them at a very high risk of developing strokes.
Q: Do you have a specific WATCHMAN case that you could share with us?
A: Our first WATCHMAN patient was very high risk for stroke because she had a previous stroke. She needed to be on blood thinners due to her risk level but developed bleeding in her small intestine, which is only treatable via surgery. We performed the WATCHMAN procedure, and after just a short time, her hemoglobin normalized, and she was rejuvenated. She has minimal risk of stroke now, due to this lifesaving device.
Sidney Peykar, M.D., FACC
Medical Degree: SUNY Downstate Medical School, Brooklyn
Fellowships: University of Florida, Jacksonville and Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem
Board Certification: American Board of Internal Medicine- Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
Cardiac Services Procedures Performed:
• Electrophysiology studies
• Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
• Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)
• Implantable left atrial appendage closure
• Catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation
If you are concerned about AFib or other heart-health issues, please contact Bayfront Health to speak with their Structural Heart Coordinator today at 941-766-4982.