St. Mark's Hospital
August 12, 2020

St. Mark's Hospital recently became the first hospital in Utah and the third in the U.S. to perform a brand new implant designed to reduce the risk of strokes that originate in the area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA).

The new implant technology known as the WATCHMAN FLX™ better closes off the LAA to keep harmful clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke and can offer patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) an alternative to long-term blood thinners as a result.

Up to 6 million Americans are estimated to be affected by AF - an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. People with AF have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. Most people don't realize they may have atrial fibrillation (AF) without obvious, or sometimes any, symptoms. However, AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia.

The implant is a one-time procedure that is permanent in nature and undetectable outside the body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour.

"We're proud at St. Mark's Hospital to help pioneer the use of this new implant technology and make it available to Utahans for the first time," said Cardiologist Dr. Vamsee Yaganti who led the surgery. "This procedure serves as a safe and effective stroke risk reduction alternative for patients with non-valvular AF, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners, and we're excited to be able to offer patients this potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment that will allow us to treat a broader range of patients moving forward."

More about atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting up to 6 million Americans. Stroke is the most common complication of AF, and AF-related strokes are also more frequently fatal and disabling. In people with non-valvular AF, more than 90% of all stroke-causing clots that come from the heart form in the LAA. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin. While very effective at reducing the risk of stroke, blood thinners increase the risk of serious bleeding over time and come with certain requirements and restrictions.