August 21, 2020
Methodist Hospital is first in Southwest Texas, and second in the state, to perform its first implant of the next-generation WATCHMAN FLX™ device, designed to alleviate stroke risk for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF). Patients with AF have an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart and are at five times greater risk for experiencing strokes. Implanting this advanced technology closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to prevent harmful blood clots from forming and entering the blood stream, potentially causing a stroke.
Frances Rhodes, PhD, retired from Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, after 33 years of teaching linguistics as well as children's and young adult literature. Having severe cedar allergies, Dr. Rhodes said after a record high cedar fever hit Texas in late 2019, she noticed her health turned for the unexpected worse. In December of 2019, Dr. Rhodes fell ill and shortly after was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Her cardiologist advised her to see Dr. David Pederson, Cardiac Electrophysiologist with Methodist Hospital for next steps in treatment.
Dr. Rhodes underwent an ablation procedure to treat her irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). This is performed by scarring or destroying tissue in the heart to disrupt faulty electrical signals causing the arrhythmia. Despite the effectiveness of the ablation, Dr. Rhodes was placed on a blood thinner to prevent any blood clots from forming. It was not long before she started experiencing bruising, internal bleeding in her intestines, and high blood pressure. Her strength had depleted, and her every day activities had become difficult.
In a follow up appointment with Dr. Pederson, he advised Dr. Rhodes of a device procedurally implanted that would close off her left atrial appendage as an alternative to lifelong use of blood thinners. "I didn't want to end up having a stroke," Dr. Rhodes recalled. "It [the procedure] sounded like a no-brainer to me. I said 'Go for it. I'm ready right now!'" The prospect of everyday life going back to normal excited her; she was ready to garden, read, and play with her grandchildren again.
On August 7, 2020, Dr. Pederson performed the first procedure in Southwest Texas incorporating the new stroke reduction device into Dr. Rhodes' left atrial appendage. "This is a significant advancement in technology that allows us to provide superior care to our patients. We can offer them a better, safer procedure to prevent strokes," commented Dr. Pederson.
Similar to its native form, this advanced technology features a new, fully rounded design that offers physicians the ability to safely enter, and maneuver within, the left atrial appendage. It is the first LAA device that can fully be recaptured, repositioned and redeployed for precise placement. The new frame design allows for optimal device engagement with the tissue for long-term stability and a faster, more complete seal. "Because it is more versatile, the new device allows for more efficient, quicker implants with less risk of complications. We will be able to implant more patients than we could with the older model device," commented Dr. Pederson.
Methodist Hospital ranks third out of 61 HCA Healthcare programs in the nation to implant left atrial appendage devices, having recently performed their 400th procedure with the original model.
"We are excited to be able to bring this new technology to San Antonio. Our site was chosen because we already have a large volume of cases with great outcomes," commented Dr. Pederson. "This will allow our program at Methodist Hospital to continue to grow and serve our community."
- Full recapture, reposition and redeploy capabilities for precise placement
- 77% reduced metal exposure; 880% more contact points for sealing
- Dual-row precision anchors designed to provide optimal device engagement with LAA tissue for long-term stability
- WATCHMAN FLX ball – fully rounded designed to safely advance and maneuver within the LAA