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‘Watching Over Me’: New Watchman Device Keeps Stroke Risk at Bay for York Woman

April 30, 2019

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‘Watching Over Me’: New Watchman Device Keeps Stroke Risk at Bay for York Woman

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 treatment plan.

“Without blood thinners, I was concerned it was only a matter of time until I had a stroke,” Ginny recalled.

Treatment Solution

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 cannot form.

“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.”

Multidisciplinary Excellence

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.”

Learn More

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.