Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots or a stroke. Many patients are treated with blood thinners. But now, there’s a new procedure called the WATCHMAN that gives patients more options to better health.
It’s been almost two years since 82-year old Theodora Clifford received a new treatment plan for her AFib. Her cardiologist, Dr. Chandrasekar Palaniswamy explains Theodora’s case.
“AFib can lead to weakening of the heart, patients can have symptoms anywhere from heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, or just not feeling well,” stated Dr. Palaniswamy.
Theodora stated, “Well physically, I didn’t have the energy that I have today.”
Theodora went on blood thinners to treat her Afib, but she also had a bulging artery in her brain.
Doctor explained, “So while on one hand she’s at a high risk for a blood clot and a stroke from atrial fibrillation, she also was at a risk for bleeding into her brain from the intracranial aneurysm… She’s a great candidate for this because she can get the WATCHMAN device and be protected from having a stroke while she also can be protected from having a bleed by not being on a blood thinner.”
Theodora added, “When he told me I was just really thrilled.”
Implanting the WATCHMAN is a minimally invasive, one-time procedure, designed to reduce the risk of strokes that originate in the left atrial appendage – which is a small ear-shaped sac in the muscle wall at the top chamber of the heart.
“This device closes that area, and that area gets permanently sealed off. The heart tissue grows over it and it’s completely sealed off,” stated Dr. Palaniswamy.
Community Medical Centers was the first hospital system in the Valley to offer this procedure. Dr. Palaniswamy said they’ve performed about 200 of these cases since 2018.
“I’m just thoroughly very pleased with it because it has taken all the fear away from me of having a stroke,” continued Theodora.
Theodora said she can now breathe a sigh of relief. She said, “I’m so thankful for Dr. Palaniswamy because I believe he’s a pioneer here in Fresno with this WATCHMAN and I felt so grateful and so privileged that he was my doctor.”
Dr. Palaniswamy says AFib is actually quite common among patients over 50 years old and he wants people to know there are various treatment options.
“In Fresno County alone, I would say at least there are ten thousand patients with atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Palaniswamy.
Theodora ended, “For anybody that’s thinking about it, please don’t be hesitant because it’s well worth it. The peace of mind of not having a stroke, it’s just immense, I can’t even tell you how immense it is to not have that fear.”