Atrial Fibrillation Patient Gets Life-Changing Treatment Option

Dr. Letcher with Bonnie
Dr. Letcher discusses the WATCHMAN device with Bonnie Strong.

What if your heart didn’t quite beat at a normal pace? Just ask Bonnie Strong, a 76-year-old patient at ProMedica’s Heart Failure Clinic at ProMedica Toledo Hospital.

“The first time I felt I was AFib was in 2007. I couldn’t take my blood pressure, it kept saying ‘error, error,’” says Bonnie.

She’s not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States live with an irregular, rapid heart rate, called Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). Those living with AFib are naturally put at a higher risk for stroke due to the chance of blood clots forming from poor heart pumping.

Patients with AFib are typically treated with anticoagulants or blood thinners. In March 2015, the FDA approved the WATCHMAN device as a new treatment option.

John Letcher, MD, FACC, ProMedica Physicians Cardiology, says the device can be utilized for any age, but it’s more of an alternative for people who can’t handle anticoagulants. “Some drawbacks of anticoagulants can include risk of bleeding in your nose or GI tract. This is a way to reduce the risk of stroke without the anticoagulants.”

After breaking her hip last year, Bonnie was unable to go on blood thinners, making her a candidate for the WATCHMAN device.

Letcher describes the device as a cage with a covering. Using a catheter through a vein in the groin, the device is implanted in a small pouch off the left atrium of the heart where blood clots commonly form and cause a potential stroke. “The device is about the size of a quarter,” says the cardiologist.

Heart tissue grows over the device after a forty-five day period of having the device implanted. After that, most patients are able to go off of blood thinners.

Bonnie has experienced no pain since having the device implanted and says it’s like she doesn’t even know it’s in there. “Everything has been good. I’m glad I had it done and would recommend it to anyone. It relieves my mind about stroke.”

Learn more about Atrial Fibrillation and other forms of arrhythmia.