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WATCHMAN: A new option to reduce stroke risk for individuals with atrial fibrillation


The Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute at Adventist Health and Rideout performed the Institute’s first implant of the WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device on a patient with atrial fibrillation (AF). Adventist Health and Rideout is one of only a handful of centers in the Sacramento region to offer the WATCHMAN device as an alternative to the lifelong use of oral anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin, Xarelto and Eliquis, for people with AF not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AF). The first procedures were performed on April 21, 2022 in the cardiac electrophysiology lab at Adventist Health and Rideout, with four cases completed at the hospital to date.

An estimated five million Americans are affected by AF—an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart. People with AF 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.

“The WATCHMAN device is a novel alternative for patients with non-valvular AF at risk for a stroke, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners,” said Dr. RP Singh, a cardiac electrophysiologist who leads Adventist Health and Rideout’s arrhythmia services. “I’m proud we are offering this option, as it provides patients in our local community with a potentially life-saving stroke risk treatment close to home.”

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. Singh and Ebby Gerges, PA, who works closely with Dr. Singh to provide patient education and facilitate communication between physicians, patients and referring providers.

Dr. Singh is part of the Adventist Heart & Vascular Institute team at Adventist Health and Rideout. This multidisciplinary group collaborates to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients with heart and vascular conditions and is comprised of cardiothoracic surgeons, general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, vascular surgeons, cardiac 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.

Patients or physicians interested in learning more about the WATCHMAN procedure can call the Adventist Health Physicians Network – Cardiac Electrophysiology medical office at 530-844-5648.