Pioneering new heart procedure to stop strokes

Friday 6 November 2015

Harry Stapleton

A pioneering new treatment to prevent strokes is being trialled at Guy’s and St Thomas’.

The Trust is one of only 10 national centres chosen by the NHS to pioneer a new heart treatment - left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) - to help to prevent strokes.

Doctors are implanting the Watchman LAAC device, which helps patients suffering an irregular heartbeat by sealing off the small pocket-like structure in the heart where the vast majority of clots form, meaning they are less likely to experience stroke.

Harry Stapleton, 87, from Sidcup in south east London, is one of the first to benefit from the new treatment. After visiting a cardiologist about another condition, Harry was given a scan which revealed a clot in his heart that could cause stroke. Having suffered a minor stroke in 2011, it was recommended that Harry have the Watchman device implanted.

Harry, who is an amateur actor and has starred in productions at the Edward Alderton Theatre in Bexleyheath since the operation at St Thomas’ Hospital, says: “I’ve always been a reasonably active person who travelled a lot and engaged in local community activities, so suffering from an irregular heartbeat and having the risk of stroke hanging over me was quite traumatising.

“I felt very vulnerable but was recommended the Watchman by a consultant and it was fitted overnight with minimal fuss. Since then I’ve been able to get back to life as normal with peace of mind, knowing that I no longer have the risk of stroke and other complications that clots can cause.”

The Watchman device will not be routinely available on the NHS until there is evidence that it is clinically effective and cost-efficient. The NHS is gathering this evidence through evaluating the results obtained from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and other centres.

The Watchman device works by preventing blood clots in the heart being pumped through the blood vessels to the brain, causing a stroke. Once implanted the Watchman device prevents any future clot formation and never needs to be replaced. After several months the device is incorporated into the heart’s wall and sealed in by the patient’s own tissue.

Dr Brian Clapp, consultant cardiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: "This is an exciting new technology that will help us to reduce the chance of devastating strokes for our patients."

Find out more about cardiovascular services at Guy's and St Thomas'.


Last updated: November 2015

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