WATCHMAN device helping reduce risk of stroke in AFIB patients

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Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem that is all too common. It’s estimated up to five million people have symptoms. If it’s not treated, people who have AFIB run the risk of suffering a stroke.

One such person is Sandra Omilianowski. She is a retired nurse and this past winter she experienced some of the classic symptoms of AFIB.

“This past December, in January, I had this intense feeling of exhaustion and terrible pressure in my chest,” says Sandra, “and my blood pressure would not go down. It was almost to 200.”

Sandra was referred to Dr. Saeed Shaikh, an interventional cardiologist at Franciscan Health. He recommended Sandra undergo a WATCHMAN procedure. It’s a wire plug that prevents blood clots that form in an appendage of the heart from getting loose and traveling to the brain.

“It plugs up the place that forms clots. It’s a small appendage within a chamber of the heart,” says Dr. Shaikh, “the left atrium. So we go in, it’s like a blind cave, we go in from the vein from the right side of the heart into the left side of the heart and then we put in a plug that blocks the cave that forms the clots.”

Sandra was kept in the hospital for one day after her procedure. She took blood thinners for a short period of time and then was weaned off. She turned out to be a good candidate for the WATCHMAN, but not everyone is.

“This appendage comes in different shapes,” says Dr. Shaikh. “Sometimes they are shaped like broccoli or a chicken wing or a mushroom. So sometimes the depth of the appendage is not enough for devices to sit properly.”

Sandra recovered from her procedure.  Her AFIB still requires monitoring, but the blood clots that could form from the AFIB are under control.

“I feel fantastic. I really do. My blood pressure has been staying down in the 130s over 80, which is a good blood pressure for me,” Sandra said.

Dr. Shaikh says the WATCHMAN is a procedure for patients who don’t tolerate blood thinners. For more on the WATCHMAN click here.

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