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Tri-City Medical Center Celebrates 100th Watchman Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

Tri-City Medical Center Celebrates 100th Watchman Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

Tri-City Medical Center Celebrates 100th Watchman Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

“On July 11, we completed the 100th procedure to implant the Watchman FLX™ device into the heart of a 67-year-old patient who has congestive heart failure and takes warfarin for her atrial fibrillation,” said Aaron Yung, MD, FACC, the board-certified interventional and structural cardiologist at Tri-City Medical Center who performed the procedure. “This is life-changing as it will reduce her risk for stroke and bleeding, as well as allow her to stop taking a blood thinner forever.”

The Watchman implant is designed for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is a quivering, rapid heart rhythm arising from the top two chambers, or atria, of the heart. AFib can cause blood to pool in a small pouch of the left atrium called the left atrial appendage (LAA) and form clots. Almost 90% of stroke-causing clots from the heart begin in the LAA. 

The device is made from a light, fabric-like membrane and metal frame resembling a parachute and comes in five different sizes to adapt to a person’s heart anatomy. “During this minimally invasive, one-hour procedure, the collapsed device is deployed to the heart via a narrow tube, or catheter, inserted into the groin, similar to inserting a stent,” added Dr. Yung. “Once the Watchman is in place, it self-expands to about the size of a quarter to safely seal off the LAA to prevent blood clots from entering the bloodstream and causing a stroke.”  

Most patients stay overnight and then come back for a follow-up about six weeks later. During that time, they remain on a blood thinner and low-dose aspirin while a layer of heart tissue begins to grow over the device to secure it in place and form a barrier against blood clots. Based on their doctor’s recommendations after closely monitoring the tissue growth for three to six months, patients can then stop taking medications. 

“I am so grateful that Tri-City Medical Center offers this procedure and feel that it has given me a new lease on life and peace of mind,” said Connie Kindel, the 100th Watchman recipient. “Tri-City is one of the best hospitals I’ve ever been to and the only one I will come to.”

More than 12 million people are expected to have AFib by 2030, according to the American Heart Association. Some people with AFib do not experience any symptoms and only become aware of their condition upon physical examination by their doctor. Others may feel a fast heartbeat, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, patients usually need to take a blood-thinning medication (an oral anticoagulant, or OAC) to prevent blood clots from forming. But these medicines can increase the risk of serious bleeding from injuries due to a fall or stomach and intestinal problems. They require monthly monitoring via a blood test, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes, so they may not be appropriate for everyone leaving their stroke risk unchecked. Additionally, certain OACs may not be covered by insurance and can be expensive. 

Clinical trials have shown that the Watchman procedure is a safe and effective solution for patients with non-valvular AFib. More than 300,000 people have received the permanent Watchman implant, reducing their risk for stroke afterwards to about 1%. To see if this technology is right for you, complete the online questionnaire and then contact the Cardiovascular Health Institute at Tri-City Medical Center at 760-940-LIFE (5433).

“Tri-City is the first hospital in North County to reach this 100th procedure milestone,” added Dr. Yung. “Our first Watchman implant was performed on October 16, 2020, and we pride ourselves on our multidisciplinary team approach to continually achieve optimal patient outcomes. This program has been a resounding success.”

About Tri-City Medical Center
Tri-City Medical Center has served our community for more than 60 years and is one of the largest employers in North San Diego County. As a full-service acute care hospital with three primary care clinics and over 500 physicians practicing in over 60 specialties, Tri-City is vital to the well-being of our community and serves as a healthcare safety net for many of our citizens. The hospital has received a Gold Seal of Approval® from the Joint Commission showcasing a commitment to safe and effective patient care for the residents of the community.

Tri-City Medical Center prides itself on being the home to leading orthopedic, spine and cardiovascular health services while also specializing in world-class women’s health, robotic surgery, cancer and emergency care. Tri-City’s Emergency Department is there for your loved ones in their time of need and is highly regarded for our heart attack and stroke treatment programs. When minutes matter Tri-City is your source for quality compassionate care close to home. The hospital operates the largest Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in North County. Tri-City partners with more than 80 local non-profit and community organizations as part of our COASTAL Commitment community outreach initiative. Together we are helping tackle some of our communities’ pressing health and social needs.

For more information about Tri-City Medical Center and Tri-City Healthcare District, please visit