New heart device at Nebraska Medicine helps reduce strokes

New heart device at Nebraska Medicine helps reduce strokes

OMAHA,NEB(FOX42KPTM)-A new heart device called "Watchman" is now being used at Nebraska Medicine. It's the first time it's been used in Omaha.

"I'm hoping this cures everything, Ill have no more strokes, life will be good," Thomas Keeling said. Keeling has the new device in his heart.

"There was one time where I was in the hospital every weekend for five weeks."

The Watchman implant reduces the risk of stroke by closing off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. Doing that keeps harmful blood clots from forming in the left atrial appendage, entering the bloodstream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke is reduced and, over time, patients will be able to stop taking blood thinners. Reasons that someone may be unable to take long-term blood thinners include prior bleeding while on a blood thinner, mediation side effects or interactions or an occupation where long-term blood thinners would be hazardous.

"As long as it works, I'm all for it," said Keeling.

Doctors say usually the way to prevent strokes is by taking blood thinners. However, if you've had problems with them in the past, this new device might just be the way to go.

"The chance to offer an alternative to a blood thinner is amazing, so it's truly an advancement in medicine to be able to do the procedure," Jessica Delaney said. She's a cardiac electrophysiologist at Nebraska Medicine.

The procedure only takes about an hour. Doctors say they don't have to cut your chest open. To implant the device, the doctor inserts a small needle in the upper leg, followed by a narrow tube, similar to a standard stent procedure. The doctor then guides the device into the left atrial appendage of the heart. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

"I already had been cut open twice and I wasn't too fond of either one of them."

The Watchman can help reduce the number of strokes by 90 percent, but Keeling says it's been a week and he feels great.

"I was glad to still be alive."

Doctors say this new heart device could last forever and part of their job is to continue to monitor all patients with the implant.

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