The James Family Heart Center at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) has reached another significant medical milestone with the introduction of the left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) procedure, better known as the “WATCHMAN.”
“The launch of this new service is another excellent example of why the community can be proud to have this state-of-the-art Heart Center right here at home,” said Medical Director of The James Family Heart Center at YRMC Pierre Tibi, M.D.
The WATCHMAN is performed in YRMC’s hybrid operating suite – regarded as among the finest in the nation – by either Soundos K. Moualla, M.D., YRMC structural and interventional cardiologist, or Nisha Tung-Takher, M.D., YRMC cardiac electrophysiologist.
Who is eligible for the WATCHMAN? The procedure is designed for people with Afib (atrial fibrillation) that’s not related to a heart valve problem, as well as people who don’t respond well to blood thinners. Afib affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. It can cause blood to pool in the left atrial appendage and form a clot. A permanent heart implant, the WATCHMAN reduces the risk of blood clots originating in the left atrial appendage.
“These blood clots can escape from the left atrial appendage, enter the bloodstream and cause a stroke,” said YRMC Patient Navigator Gwen Rhodes, RN. “Many stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the left atrial appendage. That’s why closing off this part of the heart is recommended for some people as a way to reduce their risk of stroke.”
Specially trained physicians like Drs. Moualla and Tung-Takher use computer guidance to implant the WATCHMAN device, which is about the size of a quarter. After making a small incision in the upper leg, these physicians insert a narrow tube, similar to a standard stent procedure, and guide the WATCHMAN into the left atrial appendage. The WATCHMAN device closes off that part of the heart to stop blood clots from escaping. QCBN
For more information about the WATCHMAN and other YRMC James Family Heart Center services, visit YRMC HealthConnect at yrmchealthconnect.org and YRMC’s website at YRMC.org.
By Bridget O’Gara