Doc Talk: Atrial Fibrillation

Since February is Heart Health Month, CBS 21 is committed to covering various heart-related procedures and treatments for cardiac problems. One common cardiac issue is atrial fibrillation, which is commonly known as AFib. For some Central Pennsylvanians suffering with AFib, doctors at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill have been using the Watchman device to help pump blood properly in the heart.

The Watchman is similar to a stent. It’s implanted in the heart and stays there for good. The Watchman was approved by the FDA in March 2015. Doctors at Holy Spirit began using it in April 2016. They’ve performed roughly 15 procedures with the device.

When Neimond was first diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or AFib in December 2015, it led to a scary hospital stay.

“I was hooked up to monitors and IVs and they were trying to slow my heart rate down,” said Betty Niemond.

Doctors say people at risk for AFib are usually older, have high blood pressure, heart failure or overactive thyroid. If untreated, AFib can lead to blood cloths, stroke or heart failure.

“In a normal rhythm, the top and the bottom are moving in conjunction, and in AFib the top part just sort of quivers and it does not effectively move the blood,” said Holy Spirit cardiologist Dr. David Man.

An ineffective movement of blood can cause blood to pool in upper section of the heart.

Initially Niemond used blood thinners, but that turned out to be a bad combination with the medication she was already using for her Crohn’s Disease.

“I had a flare up and was bleeding so I had to stop it,” explained Niemond.

The next option the doctor offered was the Watchman device. Although nervous, Niemond decided to try it. The device was surgically implanted into her heart, sealing off the area of the heart where blood normally collects. That allows the blood to stop pooling without having to solely rely on blood thinners.

“The Watchman procedure sounded like a good idea even though it was a little scary. I mean it had the pros and cons. I thought ‘what is this little thing?’” laughed Niemond.

Dr. Man says the Watchman is extremely successful.

“At the 45-day mark, there’s almost a new lining inside the heart that forms over the device and basically the device gets scarred into place,” said Dr. Man.

“I can’t get over how well I felt and how quick I bounced back. I’m ready for spring and ready to play golf,” said Niemond.

Common symptoms for AFib are dizziness, fatigue and a fast or irregular heartbeat. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor.

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