PHOENIX, AZ, January 4, 2010 —
More than two million Americans live with a serious heart condition called atrial fibrillation (upper chambers of your heart beat abnormally fast). These patients are five-times more likely to have a stroke and Scottsdale resident Roy C. Collins was one of them. Now, Collins has received a revolutionary stroke prevention device, thanks to an investigational study at Arizona Heart Hospital. “Because I was able to have this device implanted in my heart, the new year brings me a new lease on life,” Collins said. Arizona Heart Hospital is the only hospital in the state using an investigational small parachute-like device called The WATCHMAN® Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device, a revolutionary device that may not only significantly reduce the risk of stroke but reduce the need for prescription blood thinners as well. Arizona Heart Hospital has announced Vijay Swarup, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist, has performed the initial implants of the WATCHMAN® Left Atrial Appendage Closure Technology as part of an investigational study for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) who require blood thinning medications to reduce their risk of stroke. Collins was the first patient at Arizona Heart Hospital to receive the implanted device. Most strokes associated with AF are thought to be due to migration of blood clots that form in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA is about the size of a thumb and usually has an opening about the size of a dime. In a normal heart, the appendage contracts along with the rest of the atrial muscle allowing the blood to move in and out. When the atrium loses its ability to contract in AF, blood pools in the appendage, providing an environment for blood to clot. These clots can then break loose and migrate through the bloodstream and up to the brain causing a stroke. Typically patients with AF take blood thinning medications, such as Coumadin®, to prevent these clots from forming in the heart. These medications require frequent monitoring and have numerous side effects. The WATCHMAN is a device designed to close off the LAA. The device is introduced into the heart via a flexible tube (catheter) through a vein in the groin. The device is designed to capture any clots that may form in the appendage potentially reducing the risk of stroke and eliminating the need for long-term use of blood thinning medications such as Coumadin®. “The ability to close off the left atrial appendage without major surgery offers many advantages to our patients with atrial fibrillation who are at risk of having a stroke. The procedure and technology may greatly reduce the need for blood thinning medications and decrease the number of strokes in this at risk patient population,” said Dr. Swarup. “In the most simple of terms, it gives back to these patients a certain quality of life.” Dr. Swarup shared that the WATCHMAN investigational device, recommended for approval by the Federal Drug Administration, could be commercially available as soon as one year from now. “This device allows us to make great strides in stroke prevention,” he said. “It will change the way we prevent strokes for patients with atrial fibrillation.” Collins, who has AF and coronary artery disease, underwent the procedure last week. He was discharged the day after his procedure and will return to the hospital in one month for a check-up and to be taken off Coumadin®. “This procedure is nothing short of liberating,” said Collins. “I’ve been on Coumadin and suffered its side-effects for years. I was practically tied to a lab because my blood had to be monitored closely and constantly. Knowing this device will help prevent the possibility of a stroke and eliminating my need for Coumadin is like having a whole new lifestyle. It is the greatest thing.” Arizona Heart Hospital is ranked number one in Arizona for cardiology services and coronary intervention procedures, and is the recipient of the Overall Cardiac Care Excellence Award™ and Coronary Intervention Procedures Excellence Award™ placing them in the top 5% of the nation from HealthGrades, the leading independent healthcare ratings organization. The recognition is based on HealthGrades’ 12th annual Hospital Quality in America study which analyzes patient outcomes at virtually all of the nation’s hospitals. For more information about the WATCHMAN investigational study at Arizona Heart Hospital, contact Dinty Dizon, RN, 602-532-1051. The WATCHMAN® Left Atrial Appendage Closure Technology was developed by Atritech, Inc., headquarted in Minneapolis, MN. ABOUT ARIZONA HEART HOSPITAL Arizona Heart Hospital is a regional center of excellence dedicated exclusively to cardiac and cardiovascular care. The hospital’s innovative patient-centered approach organizes teams of physicians, nurses, administrative services – even the way the building is designed – around patients’ needs offering significant enhancements in the ability to deliver excellent care at lower costs. The Arizona Heart Hospital is a 59-bed facility, representing a unique collaboration between several of the area’s leading physicians and MedCath Incorporated, a Charlotte, NC-based health care company.