First Patients Receive New Stroke-reducing Device at Banner North  Colorado Medical Center 

Last month David Bicknell, DO, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Banner Health, performed (with his team) the first eight implantations of the new WATCHMAN FLX™ Pro Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device at NCMC in Greeley. (Photo by Banner Health)

Last month, David Bicknell, DO, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Banner  Health, performed the first eight implantations of the new WATCHMAN FLX™ Pro Left Atrial Appendage Closure  (LAAC) Device at North Colorado Medical Center (NCMC) in Greeley. NCMC is the first hospital in Northern  Colorado to offer this latest LAAC technology designed to reduce stroke risk and serve as an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners for people with atrial fibrillation (AF) not caused by a heart valve problem. 

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which serves as a timely reminder of the increased risk of stroke among people living with AF. An estimated seven million Americans are affected by AF, an irregular heartbeat that can feel like a quivering heart. 

People with AF have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. Stroke risk also increases in AF patients over 65, females, and patients who additionally have cardiomyopathy, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease (PAD), hypertension, and previous strokes. Patients over the age of 75 have an even higher risk. The WATCHMAN FLX Pro Device greatly reduces this risk by closing off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the bloodstream and potentially cause a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and the need for blood thinning medication eliminated.  

Built upon the proven safety and procedural performance of the WATCHMAN FLX LAAC Device, the new  WATCHMAN FLX Pro Device features a permanent polymer coating using HEMOCOAT™ technology designed to reduce the risk of blood clots forming on the device. The HEMOCOAT technology also helps with a faster recovery time and has a broader size matrix to treat a wider range of patients. The only restriction in recovery is that the patient observes no heavy lifting for two to three days after the procedure. 

“The studies and data have shown we can stop anticoagulation medication as soon as we put the device in. Then  we utilize Aspirin and Plavix,” Dr. Bicknell said. “The issue we were concerned with for patients coming off blood  thinners with the original WATCHMAN FLX Device is that they may have a small chance of forming clots, with  less than 3% of patients forming clots on the device itself. With this new coating on the improved device, clots are unlikely to form and it significantly reduces the chance of having a blood clot once the patient is off of all the  anticoagulation medication.” 

The WATCHMAN technology has been implanted to treat more than 300,000 patients worldwide and is done  during a one-time procedure. This permanent device doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the  body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about one hour. Patients commonly stay in the  hospital overnight and leave the next day. 

Patients interested in this procedure in Northern Colorado can schedule a consultation with Dr. Bicknell in  Loveland, Greeley or Fort Collins clinics or via telehealth. The procedure itself is only performed at NCMC. For  more information, patients can call the CardioVascular Institute of North Colorado Cardiology Clinic in Greeley at  (970) 810-0900. 

About Banner North Colorado Medical Center 

Banner North Colorado Medical Center is a fully accredited, private, nonprofit facility licensed in Greeley, Colorado, owned by Banner Health, a nonprofit healthcare system with 33 hospitals in six states. It serves as a regional medical center offering a comprehensive scope of community-based and specialty health care services for an area including southern Wyoming, western Nebraska, western Kansas, and northeastern Colorado. It offers  Emergency care, cancer care, heart care, orthopedics, inpatient and outpatient surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics,  rehabilitation, intensive care, lab and medical imaging, and medical air transport. For more information, visit  bannerhealth.com/ncmc.

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