Dr. Ashish Sadhu was straightforward when discussing the procedure he was about to perform.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” the Scottsdale- based cardiac electrophysiologist stated Sept. 21, the day before he and his team were set to complete a revolutionary WATCHMAN FLX implant at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center.
Dr. Sadhu, an electrophysiologist with Cardiovascular Institute of Scottsdale, who has been practicing clinical cardiac electrophysiology in Arizona since 2008 and is board certifi ed in cardiovascular disease and clinical cardiac electrophysiology, was also quick to tout the virtues of this progressive device. WATCHMAN is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as nonvalvuar AFib) who need an alternative to blood thinners.
For Dr. Sadhu, it can be a “lifechanging therapy,” particularly when it comes to stroke prevention.
Furthermore, patients who rely on blood thinners are often at risk of excessive bleeding, putting them in constant jeopardy even in relatively insignificant scenarios, like suffering a minor fall. And as nurse practitioner Kim Krmpotic points out, for a senior population that remains extremely active, this is a consequence many are keen to bypass.
As a permanent, one-time implant, WATCHMAN has been eight years in the making, going through multiple trials since 2005, advancing along the way, and receiving FDA approval in 2015.
It is “one of the most studied devices in history,” according to Dr. Sadhu, who moved to Scottsdale in 2019.
Dr. Sadhu, who considers himself something of an “electrician,” is concerned with how the atrial fibrillation, or AFib, affects the heart’s ability to normally pump blood. And as noted at watchman.com, which also contains videos and additional information about the implant, this can cause blood to pool in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.
In people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. That is why closing off this part of the heart is an effective way to reduce stroke risk.
The WATCHMAN implant fits into one’s LAA, and it is designed to permanently close it off and keep those blood clots from escaping. It is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
In a clinical trial, 96% of people were able to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the new WATCHMAN FLX procedure.
Dr. Sadhu was able to make history, Sept. 22 conducting the procedure for the first time in North Scottsdale on what the doctor called a “perfect candidate,” a 76-year-old woman who needed an alternative to blood thinners. Dr. Sadhu proposed WATCHMAN, the only option on the market.
To implant WATCHMAN FLX, the doctor makes a small cut in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. The WATCHMAN FLX is then guided into the LAA of the heart. This procedure, which can be done under general anesthesia or conscious sedation, takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
Following the WATCHMAN procedure, a patient will take blood thinners for 45 days or until the LAA is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Doctors monitor this process and check-ups occur 45 days and one year after the procedure.
According to details at watchman. com, a doctor will then prescribe a medicine called clopidogrel (also known as Plavix) and aspirin for to take for six months; after that, aspirin will be needed on an ongoing basis.
Prior to his tenure in the Valley, Dr. Sadhu earned his medical degree from Dr. P.D.M. Medical College in Amravati, India. He completed his internal medicine internship and residency from the University of Arizona in Tucson. After completing his cardiology fellowship from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, he moved to Massachusetts for further sub-specialty training in clinical cardiac electrophysiology at University of Massachusetts in Worchester.
Dr. Sadhu sees only upsides with WATCHMAN, acknowledging the safety of the process, the increased closure rate, and the generally high efficacy of the implant. With September marking National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, he recognized the significance of this first-of-its kind surgery. He encourages AFib sufferers to not ignore the risks for stroke and bleeding. WATCHMAN FLX can help.
Cardiovascular Institute of Scottsdale P: 480-747-6532 www.cviscottsdale.com