Once patients are past the six-week mark, they are relieved because they don’t have to worry about blood checks and thinners,” said Michele Priest, RN program coordinator – Structural Heart. “People who have longstanding AFib or atrial fibrillation are scared about having strokes. This device doesn’t eliminate all strokes but does reduce a patients’ risk comparable to Coumadin.”
On average, the Watchman operation takes about two hours. It only takes a couple of days to recover. Then, six weeks later, patients typically can stop taking blood thinners – after the heart tissue grows over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots.
Patients are very happy to give up blood thinners and have less bleeding and blood draws,” Priest said. “It’s great that we can now offer patients with a high risk of bleeding an alternative to blood thinners.”
Priest is the program coordinator for procedures like the Watchman, TAVR, etc.
There are a lot of newer procedures coming out, and we’re doing research trials,” she said. “It’s quite amazing because this is my position. I get to learn all these new things.”
Last year, Carle Foundation Hospital performed close to 30 Watchman procedures.
“Patients who receive the Watchman device are a part of a national registry,” Priest said. “It’s like that with newer procedures that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved. There are frequent follow-ups with their doctor and a lot of paperwork to maintain.”
Electrophysiologist Mbu Mongwa, MD, with Carle’s Heart and Vascular Institute, and interventional cardiologist Issam Moussa, MD, MBA, are the two who introduced Watchman at Carle in 2018.
From an emphasis on patient education before the procedure to in-procedure execution, the care team includes:
- Echo techs for imaging
- Radiology techs
- Circulating nurse staff
- Two physicians: Dr. Mongwa, as the electrophysiologist, and Dr. Moussa, as the interventional cardiologist
- Ahmad Shihabi, MD, for echocardiogram imaging
The device offers a wonderful benefit for patients.
“Coumadin takers are frequently admitted to the hospital for gastrointestinal bleeds and falls,” Priest said. “We see less of those occurrences with the help of the Watchman. Fewer patients are on blood thinners, so there are fewer bleeding complications.”