Ascension St. Vincent implants 200th heart device

Ascension St. Vincent implants 200th heart device
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:42 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - There’s a heart device growing in popularity across the country called a “Watchman.”

In Evansville, doctors at Ascension St. Vincent have been trying it out, and just reached a new milestone, 200 devices implanted.

The Watchman is basically a filter between the left atrium and atrial appendage in your heart.

According to Dr. Umang Patel, an electrophysiologist at Ascension St. Vincent, there’s a part of the that heart could be compared to the appendix. It really serves no major purpose, and only comes into play when somebody develops Atrial Fibrillation.

“We all have electrical wires in the heart that are supposed to work in conjunction with one another, but with age, people get Atrial Fibrillation,” says Patel, “with Atrial Fibrillation, the atria, instead of squeezing, starts fibrillating.”

Now, all of this talk of atria and fibrillation can get confusing, so broken down into simple terms, instead of the heart pumping regularly, it’s doing this sort of flutter.

Basically, it’s an irregular heartbeat.

“When that happens, there’s a pouch here called the left atrial appendage that has a tendency to form clots,” says Patel while pointing out the different parts of a heart, “if a clot forms here, it goes to the brain in a straight line, and then you get a big stroke.”

Nobody wants a stroke, so most folks will use blood-thinners to keep their blood from clotting.

In general, that works well, it’s when you start to experience problems with the blood thinners, like Harold Schlomer did in 2020, that your quality of life starts to take a hit.

“It was an imbalance of blood pressure and everything with taking Eliquis and that kind of stuff,” says Schlomer.

While they had worked for a while, the blood thinners made some of Schlomer’s favorite things, like working on vehicles and tending to his garden, much more difficult.

He couldn’t risk getting cut and bleeding profusely because his blood was so thin, but he had received five bypasses in 2000, and couldn’t risk going off the blood thinners.

Enter, the Watchman.

“I thought, ‘hey yeah!’ this is what I need to do to get rid of the Eliquis,” says Schlomer, “to improve and to set my possibilities of having a stroke way out into the distance.”

With Schlomer being only the second person in their care to receive the implant, Dr. Patel says there were some nerves there, but they were confident in the procedure.

“As long as the device sits where it is supposed to, there’s a good chance a stroke will not happen from atrial fibrillation,” says Patel, “he happened to be a great candidate. We knew that he’s very active. We knew the stakes were high. We knew that if he got the Watchman device, he’s going to get a long mileage out of it because he’s so healthy. For his age, he’s doing great.”

Now, 84 years old and three years removed from the implant, Schlomer says he was glad to meet up with Dr. Patel once again, and to be a shining example that getting cardiovascular work done can be scary, but it can also make a world of difference.

“It’s like lifting a load off your body. It just takes all of the fear out of it,” explains Schlomer, “there’s a lot of people who don’t want you messing with their heart, but these guys know what they’re doing.”