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New Device May Eliminate Need for Blood Thinners in Some Patients

By March 13, 2008

The Chicago Tribune reports on a new device being tested in area hospitals. The new device, called Watchman, may have the potential to decrease or eliminate the need for blood thinning drugs in patients with atrial fibrillation.

The device is essentially a small filter screen designed to sit permanently in the area of the heart where most blood clots originate. To place the device, it is rolled up into a narrow tube, which is then inserted into a large leg vein and guided into the heart. After implantation, the device initially serves as a filter to catch blood clots before they leave the heart. But, over time, scar tissue grows over the filter and the end result is a permanent change in the shape of the clot-producing area of the heart.

Watchman is currently undergoing clinical trials at several large medical centers. It will not be submitted or recommended for manufacture/use until the trials are complete and the data is analyzed.

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal beat pattern in a specific part of the heart and makes the formation of blood clots more likely. These clots can then dislodge and get "stuck" at other points in the circulation, leading to stroke or heart attack. People with high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

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