Over 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. That can be life-threatening as it contributes to the risk of a stroke. But a new program being developed at UT Health and University Hospital using a new, FDA-approved device is changing the game.
That device is called "The Watchman." Ten days ago, Dilso Gomes, who works as a monitor technician on the cardiac floor of University Hospital, had The Watchman installed after suffering from a fib for three years following his third heart bypass.
"I feel comfortable. I have no problem," said Gomes just a week-and-a-half after having The Watchman placed in his left atrial appendage.
It is a big change from the three years before,.when chest pain would make him take nitroglycerin.
"If I had to do something in the backyard, anything, I needed to use the nitro five minutes before I go take care of the yard."
"It was terrible. He couldn't do anything because he would get so tired," his wife Mary added,
He couldn't even watch Spurs games.
"I got to point where I had to turn off the TV," he said.
The Watchman is a parachute-like device that is placed in the left atrial appendage to close that appendage in the heart.
"It's an area of the heart that's like an out pouching, and we know that 80 to 90 percent of strokes that come from atrial fib relation come from clots that form in that cavity," said Dr. Manoj Panday, head of the section of cardiac electrophysiology in the division of cardiology at UT Health San Antonio.
Heart tissue grows over The Watchman implant to form a barrier against blood clots, essentially becoming part of your body and dramatically reducing the risk of stroke.
And in Gomes's case, eliminating his pain.
"No discomfort, no pain, no palpitation. It was like, 'God, I'm back to normal,'" he recalled.
"It was a great honor because he took care of so many of our patients, and now I could be of some service to him," Dr. Panday said.
Dr. Panday also noted that after 45 days, most patients who have success with The Watchman are able to come off of blood thinners, which is something they would have likely taken for the rest of their lives.
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