Health news: lifesaving heart implant will slash risk of stroke
The first tranche of patients have now been fitted with the lifesaving Watchman FLX, after it gained European approval.
The implant, designed in Britain, consists of a nickel titanium device inserted into the left atrial – a sac in the muscle wall of the heart – where 90 per cent of stroke-causing blood clots are formed.
The mesh-like mechanism, about the size of a 50p, acts like a sieve, trapping clots.
It is inserted through a vein, then expanded in the heart. The procedure usually takes an hour.
Studies at Mayo Clinic, in Maine, US, found Watchman FLX reduced the risk of stroke in up to 70 per cent of patients.
It offers a potentially lifesaving option for a range of patients, particularly those who suffer atrial fibrillation, the most common cause of irregular heartbeat affecting around one million people in the UK.
AF can cause blood to pool in the heart and then form clots. If these enter the circulatory system they can move to the brain, block the flow of blood and cause a stroke.
At present many AF patients are prescribed blood thinning medication but that can cause potentially deadly side effects including serious bleeding in the stomach. Thinners can also raise the risk of bleeding in the brain, another cause of stroke.
Dr John Foran, a heart specialist at London’s Royal Brompton & Harefield hospitals, said: “This device could potentially save thousands of patients from strokes. For people who cannot take blood thinning drugs this implant provides cover without the need for medication.”
Devinder Singh, 60, was one of the first people in the country to be given the Watchman FLX implant.
He had been diagnosed with AF in 2012 after he was taken to hospital with severe chest pain.
Devinder, a solicitor and father of three from Birmingham, suffered a brain haemorrhage in April 2015. Doctors think it may have been linked to his blood-thinning drugs.
In February he had a stroke and doctors implanted the device. He has fully recovered from his stroke and brain bleed. He said: “I’m very lucky. It’s fantastic I can have this implant.”