Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) – an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications – now have a new minimally invasive treatment option to prevent stroke, thanks to a multidisciplinary team of clinicians at NYU Winthrop Hospital who are among the first in the region to offer it.
Joseph Germano, DO, Director of NYU Winthrop’s Atrial Fibrillation Center (fourth from right); and Sameer Parekh, MD (fifth from right); with the highly skilled team of specialists launching the WATCHMAN program at NYU Winthrop.
The WATCHMANTM Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the implanta- tion of a device that reduces patients’ risk of stroke while providing an alternative treatment option to long-term anticoagulation medica- tions (blood thinners) or open heart surgery.
“WATCHMAN very possibly represents a paradigm shift in how we manage stroke prevention in patients with AF,” said Joseph Germano, DO, Director of NYU Winthrop’s Atrial Fibrillation Center.
One of the primary treatments for AF has been the use of blood thinners, which helps to prevent the blood clots responsible for the elevated risk of stroke. But not every- one’s system tolerates blood thinners and, until recently, open heart surgery was the only other option in many cases, according to Dr. Germano and Sameer Parekh, MD, also of NYU Winthrop’s Atrial Fibrillation Center.
Using the WATCHMAN device, which lasts a lifetime once implanted, doctors can target blood clots where they start.
“More than 90 percent of strokes from AF are believed to originate from the left atrial appendage,” said Dr. Parekh. “The WATCHMAN device is delivered to the heart through a catheter that is fed through a femoral vein in the leg. The parachute- like device is then deployed in the area of the heart that tends to develop blood clots, and the self-expanding frame seals off the appendage and essentially acts as a filter for the clots.” The procedure lasts about an hour and a half, and patients can expect a one to two-day hospital stay while recovering
To implement the program, NYU Winthrop assembled a highly skilled team that includes cardiac electrophysiologists, Drs. Germano and Parekh, as well as cardiac imaging specialists, led by George Gubernikoff, MD, Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology. In addition, a dedicated team of electro- physiology nurses and technicians, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac surgeons and coordinators each play a vital role in the evaluation, treatment and recovery of patients who undergo the procedure.
“This innovative procedure gives us another way to help patients with AF pre- vent stroke,” said Dr. Gubernikoff, whose team creates the pre-procedural images of the patient’s heart structure. “Diagnostic tools allow us to see what the appendage really looks like and then allow the interven- tional electrophysiologists to perform the procedure safely with excellent interventional techniques. It’s another great example of our team approach at NYU Winthrop.”
“Upon seeing how successful our mini- mally invasive and nationally renowned Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) program has been, the multidisci- plinary Electrophysiology Team is equally excited about the promise that the WATCH- MAN program holds for our patients,” said Todd Cohen, MD, FACC, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at NYU Winthrop.
NYU Winthrop was selected as a “WATCH- MAN” site by the Boston Scientific Corporation (manufacturers of the device) because of its exceptional and comprehensive cardiac care program and experience with similar procedures in the upper chambers of the heart. Individuals with AF who want to explore alternatives to long-term blood thinners should ask their cardiologist if they are candidates for the WATCHMAN device.
For more information about cardiac care at NYU Winthrop, call 1-866-WINTHROP or visit www.winthrop.org.