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The left atrial appendage occlusion multidisciplinary team.

A multidisciplinary team of interventionalists, electrophysiologists, and cardiac imaging specialists in the division of cardiology implanted the 100th WATCHMAN device on September 16.

Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cardiac dysrhythmia, is associated with a high risk for stroke in many patients. To reduce this risk, many patients are prescribed anticoagulant medications such as warfarin, apixaban, or rivaroxaban.

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The WATCHMAN left atrial appendage device.

Often times, however, patients are not suited for long-term anticoagulation therapy. They may have had a prior bleeding event with anticoagulation, have a predisposition to bleeding, or felt to be too high risk for anticoagulation because of a risk for falls.

“AF-related strokes can be devastating,” said Anil Gehi, MD, Sewell Family-McAllister Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the division of cardiology and the director of clinical cardiac electrophysiology at UNC Medical Center. “In the past there was no good option for patients with AF who were not candidates for long-term anticoagulation – they just had to take their chances. But now, left atrial appendage occlusion with the WATCHMAN allows for a low-risk alternative option. It’s important for patients and providers to consider left atrial appendage occlusion and not just accept the risk.”

Anil Kishin Gehi, MD
Anil Kishin Gehi, MD

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