Lehigh Valley Hospital – Muhlenberg Deploys Life-Saving Cardiac Procedure to Reduce Risk of Stroke
As part of the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute, the region’s leader in heart care, Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg is now providing a new catheter-based cardiac procedure to prevent stroke. It becomes the second location in the network – and one of the only in the region – to use the breakthrough approach, joining LVH–Cedar Crest.
The procedure involves a device implanted into the heart of a patient who suffers atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can cause stroke.
Stroke in AFib patients can result from blood clots that form in a small sac protruding from the heart. A plug – the WatchmanTM device – closes this appendage. Closure prevents clots from forming and greatly reduces the chance that one will break loose, travel to the brain and create a blockage that causes a stroke. Watchman is the only implant approved by the Food and Drug Administration to seal the left atrial appendage.
The Watchman procedure at LVH–Muhlenberg took place May 24, when cardiologist Hari Joshi, MD, implanted the Watchman device, roughly the size of a quarter, in a patient from the local area. The 75 minute procedure was done under general anesthesia and required no sutures. “Our robust heart program at LVH–Muhlenberg continues to grow, and the availability of Watchman is one more advanced technology that enables us to treat patients close to home,” Joshi says.
Implantation took place through a small incision in the leg, where Joshi guided the device into place through a large vein, threading it into the heart. The patient remained overnight for observation but required no sutures and had no outward sign of the operation other than a small bandage.
Within 40 days or so after the procedure, the patient’s own cells will grow over the device, creating a complete barrier. Once this happens, many Watchman recipients can – with their physician’s guidance – cease taking blood-thinning medications (e.g., warfarin) traditionally used to prevent harmful clots.
Future of Watchman
The Heart Rhythm team is the most experienced in the area and performs the most complex procedures in the Lehigh Valley. Watchman procedures are now being performed at both Lehigh Valley Hospital campuses in Allentown and Bethlehem.
The multidisciplinary team at the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute currently performs an average of four of Watchman implants each month. At this pace, by the end of June, 50 local patients will benefit from an appreciable reduction in their chance of stroke, while also avoiding the risks of blood-thinning medications for treatment of AFib.
LVHN considers this procedure at LVH–Muhlenberg to not only be another breakthrough in delivering first-rate cardiac care but also aptly timed: May is National Stroke Awareness Month in the U.S.
LVH–Cedar Crest received Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification from the American Heart Association in 2013, the third health system in the nation (and first in Pennsylvania) to earn the distinction. LVH–Muhlenberg is a Primary Stroke Center as accredited by The Joint Commission.
According to the Center for Disease Control, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S.