Medical Center Reaches Major Milestone With Device | News

ROCKLEDGE — Residents living with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF) may not have heard that there is an alternative to taking blood thinners daily to manage their condition.

Rockledge Regional Medical Center can offer the WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device, an implant that can eliminate or reduce the need for blood thinners.

AF is a type of heart arrhythmia that affects up to six million people, where the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly with an irregular rhythm.

Rockledge Regional’s electrophysiology team completed their 100th patient implantation of WATCHMAN in mid-April. The device requires a minimally invasive procedure and is designed to close the left atrial appendage to prevent blood clots from entering the bloodstream.

“AF is extremely common, and in the United States about six percent of the population has it,” said Dr. Porur “Som” Somasundaram, cardiologist at Steward Medical Group. “About two percent of them can’t take blood thinners. In Florida it could be much higher because we have an older population.

According to a press release, people with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke than those with normal heart rhythms.

AF usually starts to occur in people between the ages of 55 and 60, Dr Som said, adding that the risk increases as aging progresses.

When you compare the WATCHMAN device to taking blood thinners daily, it makes life so much easier. Blood thinners are a vital part of life for people with AF, as the benefit is not there if they miss a day of intake.

If patients continue to take blood thinners, they may develop bleeding in the stomach, urinary tract, or brain.

“As aging progresses, people with AF have an increased risk of developing stroke,” Dr. Som said. “At the same time, they have an increased risk of developing bleeding. Since we have an alternative to blood thinners, it will help them have a better quality of life and cancel the risk of stroke. It does not immunize them against strokes, but it does reduce them considerably.

To learn more about WATCHMAN, visit www.rockledgeregional.org/services-directory/cardiology/watchman-atrial-fibrillation.

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