According to the American Heart Association, at least 2.7 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is a quivering of the heart, or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots. People with AFib are at a significantly increased risk of stroke due to clot formation within the heart.


The Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Heart and Vascular Institute continues to lead the region in heart care, with cutting-edge equipment and life-saving procedures performed daily. Last January, PMC Cardiac Electrophysiologists Chase Reynolds, MD, and Michael Antimisiaris, MD, were the first in the region to perform a procedure called the Watchman, which effectively manages stroke risk, while allowing patients to cease anticoagulant medications.


“Watchman gives us the same degree of stroke prevention as anticoagulation without any of the bleeding problems,” said Dr. Reynolds.


Since January, about 25 Watchman procedures have been performed at PMC. Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Antimisiaris remain the only two electrophysiologist in the region trained to perform this complex procedure. The pair are now average about eight Watchman procedures per month.


The Watchman works by stopping stroke-causing clots where about 90 percent of them form, the left atrial appendage. With the Watchman implanted, that appendage is effectively sealed off and the threat of stroke by clot is removed.


“Watchman reduces the risk of stroke by closing off the left atrial appendage,” Dr. Reynolds explained. “This is the area of the heart where strokes associated with atrial fibrillation originate.”


Eligible patients for the Watchman device are those with AFib who are at a higher risk for bleeding.


“To be a candidate for Watchman, a patient must have a history of atrial fibrillation and a concern for bleeding problems with anticoagulation,” Dr. Reynolds added. “That concern can be due to a prior bleeding issue or may simply be due to a risk of bleeding from frequent falls, high impact hobbies, or a career with a high risk of injury.”