Northside Hospital September 10, 2015

St. Petersburg, FL - Northside Hospital, an HCA West Florida AFib & Heart Rhythm Center, recently became the first hospital on the west coast of Florida and the fourth facility in the state to offer a newly approved implant that can help reduce the risk of stroke in some patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib).

On July 7, Northside’s Tampa Bay Heart Institute team performed the first implant of Boston Scientific’s Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant™, a small, flexible wire and mesh system that when inserted into the heart via a catheter placed in the groin, closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. This is where the blood can pool and clots most often form. These clots are believed to cause the majority of strokes in people with nonvalvular AFib.

More than 6 million Americans have AFib, a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat too quickly and with irregular rhythm. People with AFib are five times more likely to experience a stroke. To reduce this risk, AFib patients are often prescribed blood-thinning medications, which can carry risks such as bleeding in the brain. People on these drugs also need to undergo blood tests as often as once a week.

The Watchman offers a nondrug alternative. Over time, patients may be able to stop such blood-thinners as soon as 45-days from the date of the implant. In one study, more than 99 percent of patients stopped taking their blood-thinning medication within a year.

“The new Watchman implant offers our AFib patients a breakthrough option for reducing their risk of stroke and further complements the cardiac treatment options available at Northside Hospital,” said Robert Sheppard, MD, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology & Pacing at Northside Hospital’s Tampa Bay Heart Institute and a Cardiac Electrophysiologist with The Heart Institute. “We look forward to providing this life-changing treatment to more patients in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Manatee counties.”

In addition to Dr. Sheppard, the physicians currently certified to implant the Watchman device are Cardiac Electrophysiologist Shalin Shah, MD, of Bay Area Heart Center and Interventional Cardiologist, Jesse Klein, DO, with The Heart Institute of Largo.

Northside Hospital’s Tampa Bay Heart Institute offers a comprehensive cardiac program for patients with a variety of heart conditions, with treatments ranging from the latest innovations in cardiac surgery to a very successful heart failure monitoring program. Northside has been at the forefront in treating Atrial Fibrillation and was one of the first hospitals in Tampa Bay to be designated as a Certified Atrial Fibrillation facility by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) for its cardiac electrophysiology treatments. It was also one of the first hospitals in the area to begin using cryoablation to treat AFib.