A local woman recently underwent a new procedure to reduce her risk of having a stroke.
“I really didn’t know I was the first, until it was all over and done with, and afterwards the nurses started coming saying, ‘you’re number one, you’re number one’ and I go…number one what.”
– Mary Cooper, 76
The Hollidaysburg woman was the first patient at UPMC Altoona to undergo the Watchman procedure.
“The Watchman by itself is a very small device. It’s a glorified cork, explained Dr. George Jabbour, her cardiologist.
Dr. Jabbour said by closing off a part of the heart, that glorified cork can save the life of someone like Mary whose atrial fibrillation puts them at high risk of stroke.
AFib makes the heart beat irregularly, which can cause blood to pool and clot in the heart’s left atrial appendage. Those clots can then travel to the brain.
In a procedure that only takes about an hour, Dr Jabbour inserts the Watchman through a patient’s groin, and up into to that appendage to close it off.
“Studies have shown without any doubt, the device itself, is equivalent to taking a blood thinner, but it’s overall superior to those patients on blood thinners, because it improves survival based on the fact that those patients bleed less,” Dr. Jabbour said.
Mary said she was prompted to undergo the procedure because she was afraid of taking a blood thinner.
“That takes a lot of weight off of you, because you just worry constantly if you’re going to fall, if you cut yourself, and you do you bleed terribly,” she said.
Dr Jabbour said older patients will benefit most from the device, because they’re at a higher risk of bleeding and of falling.
“Most of the patient population that we’re going to implant these on, are going to be above the age of 70 and even up to the age of 90, if they’re functional,” he said.
Dr. Jabbour said he’s performed 75 Watchmen procedures, seven of them at UPMC Altoona, where he just started offering the procedure.
UPMC Altoona is the only hospital in the region performing the Watchman procedure.