When 67-year-old Virigina Wood (Ginny), of York, went in
for a routine medical test, she couldn’t have predicted that she would later
end up at WellSpan York Hospital getting a stroke-preventing device implanted
in her heart. But at that physician visit, she learned that her heart was in
atrial fibrillation (A-fib), a condition that can cause blood to pool in the
heart, forming blood clots that can lead to stroke. In fact, A-fib increases
the risk for stroke fivefold.
Historically, only blood thinners like non-vitamin K oral
anticoagulants (this is now the recommended type of blood thinner for A-fib)
have been shown to reduce the risk for stroke. Ginny developed an adverse
reaction to blood thinners, so she and her medical team needed to find a new
“Without blood thinners, I was concerned it was only a
matter of time until I had a stroke,” Ginny recalled.
Ginny was referred to WellSpan cardiologist and
electrophysiologist Brian Schuler, MD. Dr. Schuler explained that Ginny was an
excellent candidate for an alternative treatment called the Watchman™, an
implanted device that greatly reduces the risk for stroke in patients with
A-fib who are unable to take blood thinners.
The Watchman works by sealing off the heart’s left atrial
appendage—a small sac where most strokes originate in people with A-fib. When
this is sealed, blood is no longer able to pool in the appendage, so clots
“WellSpan York Hospital is a leader in interventional
procedures that reduce stroke risk in patients with A-fib,” said
Dr. Schuler. “We were the first in the region to offer
the implanted device and have performed more cases than any
other facility in the area. We are also actively involved
in clinical trials to further the study of other treatment options.”
WellSpan York Hospital’s team of experts, including
cardiologists, electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists, work
together to implant the Watchman. Using advanced imaging, they guide the device
through a vein in the groin to the heart, where it is deployed like a parachute
to seal the appendage’s opening.
Ginny underwent the procedure at WellSpan York Hospital
with Dr. Schuler and his team. After just one night in
the hospital, she went home with no pain or limitations.
Today, one year after the procedure, the device is still
securely in place. And although Ginny’s heart still occasionally goes into
A-fib, she no longer worries about a stroke.
“I had so much confidence in Dr. Schuler. He’s a pioneer
in the field, and I’m so relieved to have been offered this treatment option,”
said Ginny. “I feel like the Watchman is watching over me.”
To learn more about the advanced heart care at WellSpan or to find a WellSpan cardiologist, visit
WellSpan.org/StructuralHeart or call 717-812-3617.