Ascension Providence expands structural heart program with addition of WATCHMAN technology


Ascension Providence recently announced the continued expansion of its structural heart program, now offering WATCHMAN® Left Atrial Appendage Closure Technology for patients with atrial fibrillation who require blood thinning medications to reduce their risk of stroke. Atrial fibrillation is a common heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast, affecting more than 5 million people worldwide. The Waco Tribune-Herald featured the announcement in a recent article.

The WATCHMAN device was designed to keep harmful sized blood clots from entering a patient’s bloodstream, potentially causing stroke. The device is introduced into the heart via a flexible tube, or catheter, through a vein in the upper leg or groin. Patients with atrial fibrillation are at a greater risk of having a stroke due to formation of clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. The device is designed to capture any clots that may form in that area of the heart.

“We are excited to expand the structural heart program at Ascension Providence in partnership with Waco Cardiology,” said Dr. Brian Becker, Chief Medical Officer at Ascension Providence. “The ability to close off the left atrial appendage without major surgery offers many clinical advantages to our patients with AFib who are at risk of having a stroke. The adoption of this technology may greatly reduce the need for blood thinning medications and decrease the number of strokes in this at-risk patient population.”

Previously, patients who were diagnosed with having regular blood clots were prescribed blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin or Coumadin, to prevent them from forming. These medications have been effective in reducing the risk of stroke but may cause undesirable side effects such as bleeding. The drugs can also be affected by other factors such as diet or other medications and require patients to have their blood drawn frequently to monitor their dosage. Now, with the help of the Ascension Providence Stroke Coordinator, potential stroke patients will be identified and sent to the Valve Clinic where they will be screened as a potential WATCHMAN candidate.

Ascension Providence has remained focused on developing a comprehensive structural heart program since 2011, when Ascension Providence was the first hospital in Waco to offer PFO/ASD Closures and Balloon Aortic Valvulopathy. Earlier this year, Ascension Providence launched the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program as the only TAVR program in Waco. Ascension Providence continues to advance the program, with plans to offer mitral valve repair in the future.

“Ascension Providence remains on the cutting edge of cardiac care with the expansion of its structural heart program,” said Philip Patterson, President and COO of Ascension Providence. “Our community continues to rely on Ascension Providence for complex, comprehensive heart care, and we are proud to deliver on our commitment by expanding specialty programs at Ascension Providence, offering the full continuum of care to patients in Waco and the surrounding communities.”

Additionally, Ascension Providence recently invested $6 million in Catheterization Laboratory upgrades, providing state-of-the-art technology and procedure rooms.