DJ Carpenter has atrial fibrillation (AFib). It’s something he’s had for many years and it causes his heart to beat irregularly. If the heart doesn’t beat normally, blood can collect and form clots. If a clot escapes, it can cut off blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke.
Most of the time when Carpenter’s heart would beat irregularly it would eventually return to normal rhythm on its own or he would take medicine. But recently these approaches stopped working and he would have to go to the ER where doctors had to shock his heart into normal rhythm.
“My AFib episodes started to increase so my doctor prescribed a blood thinner to reduce my stroke risk,” said Carpenter. “I also have Parkinson’s disease. When I would fall, I would bleed a lot because of the blood thinners I was taking. I had to be really careful.”
“Having Parkinson’s disease put DJ at a higher risk for falls,” said Mohit Chawla, MD, a cardiologist with St. Luke’s Hospital – Cedar Rapids Heart and Vascular Institute. “If you have a serious bleeding issue like a trauma such as a fall, taking a blood thinner is not an ideal strategy to help prevent a stroke.”
Only offered at St. Luke’s
In 2016 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a device called the Watchman. It’s a tiny implant, which reduces stroke risk in individuals with AFib. Dr. Chawla was the first physician in Cedar Rapids to perform the Watchman procedure in November 2016. St. Luke’s Hospital – Cedar Rapids Heart and Vascular Institute is one of only three facilities offering this procedure in the state.
“Dr. Chawla recommended the Watchman treatment for me,” said Carpenter. “I was somewhat reluctant at first because I didn’t want to have a procedure, but I decided to proceed. It has worked out really well and now I am glad I did it.”
“The Watchman is a very small device that looks like a little umbrella,” said Dr. Chawla. “You use a catheter to move it into the part of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). The appendage is where clots tend to form, and these clots can dislodge and cause a stroke. Generally, if an individual is on blood thinners the clots don’t form because the blood is so thin but if someone isn’t able to take a blood thinner this is a great option because the Watchman seals the area off where the clots form.”
Watchman isn’t a good option for all AFib patients. It’s best for a patient with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem. It’s also recommended for individuals who need an alternative to long-term blood thinners because they have a history of serious bleeding because of a health condition, occupation or lifestyle.
“The Watchman procedure takes about an hour to perform and patients typically stay overnight at St. Luke’s,” said Dr. Chawla. “About 45 days after the procedure we do a transesophageal echocardiogram to make sure everything looks good. If it does, then they can go off the blood thinner and take aspirin and Plavix for six months. After that, it is basically aspirin for life and then we do another test in a year to make sure everything is well positioned.”
“I’d recommend it,” said Carpenter. “I’m glad I had the procedure. I’ve had falls so having this Watchman gives me peace of mind. The staff was excellent and staying close to home for this procedure was great and I am glad St. Luke’s offers this advanced procedure. Everything about it is positive.”
To learn more about the Watchman procedure, contact us at StLukesCR@unitypoint.org or call (319) 739-2036.
Did you know?
Doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital – Cedar Rapids Heart and Vascular Institute have the expertise to treat 95 percent of heart-related issues, so patients are able to stay close to home to receive care.
Our heart care has been nationally recognized six times as a Top Heart Hospital for offering better outcomes for patients.
Watch a video of Dr. Chawla performing a Watchman procedure at bit.ly/STLWatchman.