Parkridge Health System
September 20, 2020

Chattanooga, TN – Centennial Heart at Parkridge now provides an innovative implant designed to help prevent stroke in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib) who cannot tolerate long-term anticoagulant, or blood thinning, medication regimens.

During AFib, the heart beats irregularly, disrupting the flow of blood through the heart and increasing the likelihood of clot formation. Researchers believe as many as 90 percent of AFib-related strokes are caused by clots formed in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small, pouch-like outcropping attached to the left atrium.

Left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) is an alternative to lifelong regimens of blood thinners, which can cause excessive bleeding and force the discontinuation of the protective treatment. During LAAC, specialists implant an LAAC device to seal shut the opening of the appendage, which may reduce the risk of stroke and allow patients to eventually discontinue the use of blood thinners.

“The latest version of the LAAC device – the WATCHMAN FLX – is made with special fabric that encourages tissue growth, fortifying the seal around the appendage opening,” explained Michael Christian Allan, MD, an electrophysiologist with Centennial Heart at Parkridge, who in 2017 pioneered LAAC device implantation in Chattanooga. “This prevents blood from pooling in the left atrial appendage, where it can form clots that can potentially cause a stroke. Although blood thinners are the standard method for stroke prevention in patients with AFib, LAAC offers an excellent alternative for those patients who cannot undergo such therapy.”

Dr. Allan recently performed the first procedure in Chattanooga to implant the WATCHMAN FLX and noted that the new design offers a greater degree of precision when placing the device into the appendage opening, making it easier and safer to implant. The device offers a broader range of sizing options, making the treatment option available to a broader patient population. Like the first generation device, it is implanted through a needle stick in the groin. No surgery is required. It is generally an outpatient procedure, and patients usually go home the same day.