Minimally Invasive Procedure Reduces Risk of Stroke in those with Atrial Fibrillation

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Millions of people in the United States have atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AFib. The irregular heartbeat puts patients at risk for a stroke. But a new innovative procedure offered at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn. is easing their worries.

With three great-grandchildren and a wife of almost seven decades, Peter Scifo’s life is full.

“Very much so,” Scifo said. “We do a great deal together.”

But a diagnosis of AFib made it difficult to fully enjoy family time.

“If you have a situation that’s forever lurking, that can erupt, you live with an anxiety level that doesn’t let you get into the everyday activities,” Scifo explained.

“The most concerning risk with AFib is the formation of thrombus or clot in the upper chamber of the heart,” explained Robert Jumper, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “When a thrombus or a clot from the heart travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke.”

Because of this risk, patients are often put on blood thinners. However, some can’t tolerate the medication long-term.

“In that population of patients, you’re caught in a position in which, if you continue the anticoagulation, they may have a risk of falling and bleeding or just bleeding alone, so the risk of using the blood thinner outweighs the benefit,” Dr. Jumper explained.

For those patients, there’s a new minimally invasive procedure called the Watchman. It’s threaded through the femoral artery up to the part of the heart where blood clots typically form.

“Over time the body heals that seal or that device and it becomes covered in a thin layer of skin,” Dr. Jumper said. 

Thus, preventing those clots from escaping.

“St. Vincent’s has been leading the state in offering advanced procedures in cardiac care,” Dr. Jumper said. “We’re not only one of the first in the state to offer the Watchman procedure, but we’re also the program with the most experience in implanting the Watchman procedure.”

For Scifo, the Watchman has turned off a ticking time bomb and given him his life back.

“I feel much more relieved,” Scifo said. “I feel more assured and it’s been a huge burden that’s been lifted off me. It’s been a blessing.”

The procedure usually takes only an hour to perform and patients are home the next day. To learn more, visit StVincents.org.
 

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