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Altru Debuts New Technology to Significantly Reduce Risk of Stroke

Altru Debuts New Technology to Significantly Reduce Risk of Stroke

Norman Swanson lived with Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) for several years before it was discovered. His symptoms were minor and mostly unrecognizable.

“I had acid reflux,” said Swanson. “If I had something that was really cold, or spicy, I had pain and discomfort. I felt my heart beating faster.”

Treatment for A-fib led to the discovery of the blockage of five arteries in Swanson’s heart. It was after a bypass surgery was performed, that the 68-year-old developed another A-fib event, or a condition of the heart characterized by irregular and often faster heartbeat. It is common for patients to develop A-fib after a bypass.

“Unfortunately, the risk of stroke for patients with A-fib can be about 10 percent,” said Mevan Wijetunga, MD. “That’s a pretty high risk.”

Swanson was initially prescribed a blood thinner to help prevent a stroke or heart attack, but he was faced with a serious problem.

“Your blood is like water,” Swanson said. “The smallest little cut, the smallest little abrasion, will bleed and bleed significantly. It’s like having a loaded gun at your head all the time.”

Preventing a Stroke

As an avid angler, Swanson didn’t want to face blood loss from a cut or accident while fishing. In order to wean Swanson off blood thinners, his care team decided to implant the WATCHMAN FLX into his heart. Swanson was Altru’s first patient to receive the WATCHMAN FLX this past spring.
The left atrial appendage in the heart, is similar to a pouch. Blood can pool in the pouch and form clots.

“For our patients who have challenges in taking blood thinners, we use the WATCHMAN FLX to plug that pouch, allowing the blood to flow properly,” said Dr. Wijetunga. “The device prevents blood clots from forming in the most common area of the heart.”

Back to Normal 

With a reduced risk, Swanson is able to get back to living life normally.

“I can stop using blood thinners and get my other knee replaced,” said Swanson. “I feel like I don’t have to live like I have a loaded gun pointed at my head.”

“We are excited to have this life changing technology available for our patients,” said Dr. Wijetunga. “The Watchman FLX gives patients an opportunity to significantly reduce their risk of stroke. We love to see our patients healthy and safe.”

With Swanson’s heart on the mend, he gives heartfelt thanks to his care team.

“The nurses and nurse practitioners are the people I see regularly,” said Swanson. “I can’t say enough good about them, and the physicians are exceptional. I appreciate the care the medical team at Altru has provided me for several years.”