New device helps reduce stroke risk from atrial fibrillation

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. And blood thinners are the most common way to deal with the stroke risk of Afib.

But a little device that looks like an umbrella is changing the conversation on that.

Lawrence Keeley of Hatboro, Pa., is among the 3 to 6 million Americans with atrial fibrillation.

But, unlike most people with a-fib, Lawrence couldn't take blood thinners.

They caused internal bleeding.

"Your blood count was so low that you actually had to go to the hospital? Yeah. Blood transfusion? Yeah," says Lawrence to his doctor.

But Dr. Brian O'Neill of Temple Health couldn't just ignore Lawrence's risk of blood clots.

"This is the position in the heart where the blood clots can form," says Dr. O'Neill.

Those clots can go to the brain, triggering a disabling stroke.

For patients like Lawrence, a tiny umbrella-like device called the Watchman can be a solution.

'It sits right in that portion, so the blood clots can't form there," notes Dr. O'Neill.

And it stays there permanently.

Over time, that open pouch closes over.

"We get that reduction in the stroke like you're taking a blood thinner without having to be on one," says Dr. O'Neill.

To learn more about the Watchman, CLICK HERE.

In studies, five years after receiving a Watchman, patients were 55 percent less likely to have a fatal or disabling stroke.

The hour-long procedure to implant the Watchman is generally easy on patients.

"I was in and out. And I had no problem recovering," says Lawrence.

Lawrence is now off blood thinners, only taking one regular aspirin every day.

"The bleeding risk of a full-dose aspirin is much lower than blood thinners," says Dr. O'Neill.

He says Watchman is worth looking into.

"If this is an option for them, I say go for it," says Lawrence with a smile.

In November, Temple implanted its 100th Watchman device.

While it doesn't eliminate A-fib, Dr. O'Neill says it can make patients feel more at ease with their condition, and they can return to a more active life, further improving their health.
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