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The Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute (TCAI) at St. David’s Medical Center recently became the first facility in Texas to implant the newly FDA-approved WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device in a patient with non-valvular Atrial Fibrillation (A Fib).

A Fib is a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). A Fib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. Patients with A Fib are at a greater risk of stroke, as A Fib can cause blood to pool and form clots in the left atrial appendage (LAA). If a blood clot breaks loose, it can travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

The most common treatment to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with A Fib is the use of blood-thinning warfarin medication. Despite its proven efficacy, long-term warfarin medication is not well-tolerated by some patients, and it carries a significant risk for bleeding complications. Nearly half of A Fib patients eligible for warfarin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues.

The WATCHMAN Implant is a permanent implant designed to close the LAA to keep harmful blood clots from the LAA from entering the blood stream. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin.

The WATCHMAN was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 13. TCAI was involved in clinical trials to study its effectiveness in the United States for nearly a decade.

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