Published on May 01, 2019

Dr. BrownParkview Medical Center introduces WATCHMAN™ device

Implant procedure can help reduce stroke risk for some A-Fib patients

(Pueblo, CO, 5/1/2019) – Parkview Medical Center is one of the first hospitals in the state to deploy a new treatment that can help prevent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem.

Drs. Kathleen Brown and Charles W. Stout implanted the first WATCHMAN™ devices in patients this month. The WATCHMAN is a new product designed by Boston Scientific that is deployed via catheter into the left atrial appendage, an area of the heart where blood clots typically form, preventing them from entering the bloodstream.

Doing so can help reduce the risk of stroke for people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation and, over time, might allow patients on blood thinning medications such as Coumadin, to stop taking them.

“I think there is a huge unmet need here,” said Dr. Brown. “There are 5 million people in the U.S. with atrial fibrillation and this number is expected to double by 2050. We have a disproportionately high incidence of atrial fibrillation in Pueblo and the surrounding area. We have identified more than 2,500 patients in our practice alone who are currently on anticoagulation.”

Brown said one in five strokes occur in patients with atrial fibrillation.

“These are not usually small strokes,” Dr. Brown said. “Strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation are more debilitating than those occurring in patients without atrial fibrillation.”

The WATCHMAN is implanted in a one-time procedure done under general anesthesia. The procedure takes about an hour, though Dr. Brown noted that patients may be away from their loved ones for a bit longer based on the time it takes to prepare them and administer the anesthesia.

The device is lifelong and cannot be removed.

Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the following day.

“The recovery is minimal. Most of my patients are back to their regular routine within a week at the longest,” Dr. Brown said.

To be a candidate for the device, patients must be recommended to be on anticoagulation based on risk factors for stroke which include heart failure, being over 65, diabetes, history of stroke or TIA, history of vascular disease and female gender, Dr. Brown said. 

They must have a reason to not be on anticoagulation; for example history of bleeding, frequent falls, high-risk job or activities, inability to tolerate anticoagulants or inability to afford their medications, etc.

They can’t already have a clot in the heart.

There are certain types of anatomy that will make them unsuitable for a device as well.

Patients must be referred for the procedure and Dr. Brown said that at least two physicians must document that they have discussed the procedure with the patient.

"The implementation of the WATCHMAN device procedure is a milestone for patients in Southern Colorado", said Parkview Medical Center President and CEO Leslie Barnes.

“This is a great example of how Parkview Medical Center’s investment into new technology translates to better outcomes and better quality of life for our community,” Barnes said. “We couldn’t be more excited to launch this new program.”

Look for more information soon on an upcoming event for the public to get questions about atrial fibrillation answered at noon, July 23 at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Library.

About Parkview Medical Center

Founded in 1923, Parkview Health System in Pueblo, Colorado, offers general acute healthcare and health specialty services. As a private, non-profit organization, Parkview is licensed for 350 beds and provides a full range of healthcare services including a verified Level III Trauma Center along with exceptional comprehensive cardiac and orthopedic care. Parkview Health System is the leader in all service lines in our service area. As a vital healthcare source, Parkview’s service area includes Pueblo County and 14 surrounding counties, which together represent 370,000 total lives.

Parkview Health System is the largest non-government, nonprofit, private sector employer in Pueblo County with approximately 3,000 employees and provides a skilled medical staff of over 370 physicians. The impact of our workforce triggers a strong impact on the community as Parkview’s annual payroll contributes $232 million to the economy.