Video: NMMC First Hospital In State To Offer FDA Approved Device For A-Fib Patients

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TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) –  The largest rural hospital system in the country is leading the way in a newly approved procedure that allows patients with atrial fibrillation to get off long term blood thinners.   WCBI’s Allie Martin has more on the device doctors say can reduce the risk of stroke.

The device is known as the “Watchman.”  It was developed by Boston Scientific for patients with atrial fibrilliation.

“It is an irregular heartbeat, where the top two chambers of the heart quiver,” said Marsha Jones, clinical research manager with Cardiology Associates.

The Watchman implant closes the left atrial appendage in the heart, keeping harmful clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke.  Until now, a fib patients were prescribed blood thinners coumadin or warfarin, but those came with side effects, such as a higher risk of bleeding or bruising.

“Our patients, they bump against a mattress and they bruise, or they’re at home in the garden, and that is a frustration for our patients,” Jones said.

Jones,  along with Dr. James Stone, oversaw two clinical trials, with nearly 45 patients.

“Very good results, I mean to me this represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of atrial fibrilliation. In my career, there have been, before this, two great leaps in management, in electophysiology, 1958 first pacemaker, 1980 first defibrilliator was implanted, but this represents the next big leap forward in management of people with atrial fibrilliation,” Dr. Stone said.

Two years ago, Dr. Stone, Jones, and a patient testified before the FDA about the benefits of the Watchman device.  This spring, the Watchman implant was approved by the FDA.

The device is implanted into the heart through a tube inserted through a vein in the patient’s upper leg.  The implant does not require open heart surgery and does not need to be replaced.

NMMC is the only hospital in the state offering the groundbreaking technology.  Doctor Stone is training specialists nationwide how to use the Watchman implant device.

Doctor Stone points out that the Watchman device does not cure atrial fibrilliation, but it allows patients to get off blood thinners, and also minimizes the risk of stroke and bleeding problems caused by the medications.

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