Published on December 12, 2018

MidMichigan Celebrates 100th Watchman Procedure Milestone

Photo of the WATCHMAN Device Implanted In LAA.

During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through a vein in the patient’s leg and advanced from the vein into the heart. The Watchman implant is then opened and used to close off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage.

In September 2017, members of MidMichigan Health’s comprehensive Heart and Vascular Program began performing a new minimally invasive procedure to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib). This month, MidMichigan celebrates a program milestone with the completion of its 100th Watchman™ Implant. This advanced heart procedure is offered at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland and specifically provides an alternative to people with AFib who have problem with taking long-term anticoagulants (blood thinners).

AFib is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart, also known as the atrium, beat too fast and with irregular rhythm. It is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting more than five million Americans. “If left untreated AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications,” said Dr. Islam. “Despite proven effectiveness, long-term use of blood thinners is not well-tolerated by some patients and may carry a significant risk for bleeding complications.”

Approved by the FDA in 2015, the Watchman implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots from forming, entering the blood stream and causing a stroke. “During the procedure, we insert a catheter through a vein in the patient’s leg and advance it from the vein into the heart,” said Dr. Rizk. We then open the Watchman device to seal off the LAA sack. Implanting the device is a one-time procedure that generally lasts about an hour. Following the procedure, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours. Most patients are able to discontinue the use of blood thinners after 45 days. During that time, the patient’s heart tissue grows over the Watchman Implant to form a barrier against blood clots.”

Photo of Watchmen Team at MidMichigan Health.
Clinic patients benefit from the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of experienced specialists. These include from left to right: Cardiologist Jeffrey Martindale, D.O.; Cardiologist/Cardiac Imaging Specialist Susan Sallach, M.D.; Cardiologist Femi Showole, D.O.;
Electrophysiologist Nilofar Islam, M.D.; Interventional Cardiologist Maged Rizk, M.D., Ph.D.; Cardiologist/Cardiac Imaging Specialist Waleed Doghmi, M.D.; and Electrophysiologist William Mellana, Jr., M.D.

According to Cardiovascular Service Line Chief William Felten, M.D., due to the complexity of this advanced procedure, it requires the involvement of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists representing multiple areas of cardiology. “Our team at MidMichigan is top notch and includes Electrophysiologists Nilofar Islam, M.D., and William Mellana, Jr., M.D.; Interventional Cardiologist Maged Rizk, M.D., Ph.D.; Cardiologists/Cardiac Imaging Specialists Susan Sallach, M.D., and Waleed Doghmi, M.D.; and Cardiologists Jeffrey Martindale, D.O., and Femi Showole, D.O.,” he said.

A patient may be a candidate for the Watchman Implant if they meet the following criteria: 

  • They have atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem.
  • Their physician has recommended they take a blood thinner for their AFib.
  • They can take Coumadin (warfarin) but need an alternative to long-term blood thinners because they have a history of serious bleeding while taking blood thinners; they have a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts them at risk for serious bleeding; or they’re taking a blood thinner and are having trouble with their treatment plan, and a different type isn’t an option for them.

Those who would like more information on the Watchman procedure may visit www.midmichigan.org/watchman or call (989) 794-5200.