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Adventist Health St. Helena heart experts perform 100th WATCHMAN procedure

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The Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute’s structural heart program implanted its 100th WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device at Adventist Health St. Helena on July 28, 2022. The WATCHMAN device is an alternative to the lifelong use of oral anticoagulant medications such as warfarin, Xarelto and Eliquis for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular Afib). The medical center introduced the WATCHMAN procedure in October 2018.

An estimated five million Americans are affected by Afib—an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart. People with Afib have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. The WATCHMAN device closes off a blind pouch of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and patients may be able to stop taking warfarin or other blood thinners.

“We were among the first medical centers in the Bay Area to offer the WATCHMAN device and are proud to provide this important treatment option to patients who travel from throughout Northern California to receive care,” said interventional cardiologist Dr. Monica Divakaruni, the structural heart program’s medical director. “The best part about reaching this 100th case milestone is knowing there are so many individuals who can now embrace life free from blood thinners and without worrying about a disabling stroke.”

The WATCHMAN device is a one-time procedure and has been implanted in more than 150,000 patients worldwide. It is a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day. At the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute, patients benefit from the special expertise of Dr. Divakaruni and her fellow interventional cardiologist Dr. Stewart Allen. Christina Stout, NP-BC, is the program’s coordinator and works closely with Dr. Allen and Dr. Divakaruni to provide patient education and facilitate communication between the physicians, patients and referring providers.

“Adventist Health St. Helena is destination for heart care for patients around the region and beyond thanks to the specialized expertise of our heart and vascular physicians and innovative treatment options such as WATCHMAN,” said Dr. Steve Herber, Adventist Health St. Helena president. “Our new cardiovascular suite will make structural heart procedures like these even more available to our community.”

The structural heart program is a service of the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute at Adventist Health St. Helena, a multidisciplinary group collaborates to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients with heart and vascular conditions and is comprised of cardiothoracic surgeons, general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac electrophysiologists, nurses, anesthesiologists and imaging professionals. Together, they are unified by a vision to help patients access new advances in treating these conditions to improve their quality of life.

You may call the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute medical office at (707) 963-7200. Learn more about the WATCHMAN procedure.