New AFib treatment prevents dangerous clots
Two years ago, Tom DeClercq's life changed dramatically, after a blood clot in his heart broke off and travelled to his brain. He suffered a debilitating stroke.
"I worked on rehab, with my girl, who was super teaching me to walk again, and use my left hand," Tom says of his rehabilitation therapist.
Tom, however, still worried. He had AFib-Atrial Fibrillation- a dangerous abnormal heart rhythm. Even when that rhythm goes back to normal, there is still a huge risk for blood clots to form, break off, and cause stroke.
"The fear I had for almost 11 months, was that the stroke would strike again, and leave my wife alone," Tom says.
He is among thousands of AFib patients who cannot take blood thinners- drugs that help reduce the risk for clots.
Fortunately, Tom crossed paths with Dr. Majjed Nounou, of Mclaren Flint's Heart Valve Institute. They offer a new procedure, called "Watchman".
"We're very excited," Dr. Nounou says, "For people who can't take blood thinners, we have just been waiting and hoping that nothing will happen; but now we have this technology, we can protect our patients."
The Watchman is a tiny, implantable device that cuts off the source of clots. That source is an unnecessary little appendage on the heart, almost like a pouch, where where blood gets trapped during the abnormal heart rhythm of AFib.
"In afib, it's quivering, and when it's quivering the blood is trapped and stuck in there and starts to create a clot, because it is not swirling and moving fast."
When the heart goes back into normal rhythm, the clots can break out of the pouch, travel to the brain, and cause strokes.
During the Watchman procedure, surgeons cut off the flow to and from the pounch, with the device.
Dr. Nounou says it's a lot like putting a plug in a sink, "We plug the drain and close it. It's the same thing, we come in and plug it. And then the body will build up tissue on top of it and no will blood flow in or out."
The Watchman is placed, via catheter, through the groin, snaked up to the appendage. It's a simple sounding procedure, with nearly indescribable benefits.
Tom says having it done brought him peace, "Reassurance, that this is going to stop another one from occuring, gave me a clamness and a smile inside."
The Watchman procedure has a completely different purpose from another AFib treatment, called an ablation. The ablation is an increasingly popular procedure designed to normalize the rhythm and prevent the heart from going into AFib in the first place.