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Upstate now offers Watchman implant to reduce stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation

Upstate Medical University is now offering patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation orAFib an alternative to long-term medications to reduce their risk of stroke with the newly approved Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant. The implant is good news for people with atrial fibrillation, who are at five times greater risk of stroke.

“Not every patient can tolerate long term use of anti-coagulant medication, which helps reduce stroke risk and symptoms,” explained Jamal Ahmed, M.D., Upstate assistant professor of medicine, who performs this procedure through the Upstate Health and Vascular Center. “This implant can provide life-changing benefit for these patients, and is inserted through a minimally invasive, one-time procedure that typically only requires a 24-hour hospital stay.”

Upstate began offering this procedure in this month and has implanted five Watchman devices. The procedure to implant the device typically takes about one hour, is performed under general anesthesia and requires the patient to spend a full day in the hospital.

Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to pool in the left atrial appendage (LAA). This pooling of blood can allow clots to form. For patients with non-valvular AFib, the LAA is believed to be the source of the majority of stroke-causing blood clots. If a clot forms in the LAA, it can increase one’s risk of having a stroke. Blood clots can break loose and travel in the blood stream to the brain, lungs, and other parts of the body.

The Watchman implant is designed to close off the LAA, keeping harmful blood clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke.  By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking anti-coagulant medication.

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