New heart implant reduces risk of stroke

A new heart implant called ‘Watchman FLX’ that can help reduce the risk of stroke by up to 80 per cent has recently been made available in the UK.

The device sits inside the pouch in the left chamber of the heart where blood clots typically form and is an updated version of an older system with the same name. It is being offered to patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common form of irregular heartbeat affecting around one million people in the UK, and has been implanted at the Royal Brompton Hospital since August 2019.

Patients with atrial fibrillation often rely on long-term blood-thinning drugs, but these can increase the risk of uncontrollable bleeding. The new Watchman device offers a permanent alternative to medication by sitting within the heart pouch and stops clots being able to escape and cause a stroke.

The new device is available in five different widths and is made of a flexible, thin metal that moulds to fit every person's anatomy.

Royal Brompton’s honorary consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Dr Sandeep Panikker, who has fitted over 20 patients with the device, said: “All patients are different and so are their hearts. The previous version of the device couldn’t fit smaller, bigger and irregular shapes.’

Dr Panikker said the device is also a good option for people who forget to or are unable to take medication. “With blood thinners, you have to be committed to taking them for the rest of your life. Lots of people don't want to do this. If you miss a dose, there can be problems. But with this device you don’t have to worry.”

You can find out more about the device and how it works here.