Sierra Medical Center Implants First Permanent Heart Device in Patient

Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center (SMC), the region’s newest hospital, announced it recently performed the hospital’s first permanent heart implant. The WATCHMAN FLX Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) device was implanted on an atrial fibrillation (AF) patient. The implant is an alternative to lifelong use of blood thinners for people with AF not caused by a heart valve problem.

“Bringing new technology to cardiac patients is a significant milestone and I am proud to have implanted one of the first WATCHMAN devices at Sierra Medical Center,” said Ram Challapalli, MD, FACC, electrophysiologist. “This device reduces stroke risk and gives patients peace of mind when managing their heart conditions.”

Cardiovascular Care at Sierra Medical Center

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An estimated seven million Americans are affected by AF, an irregular heartbeat that can feel like a quivering heart. According to the National Stroke Association, people with this condition have a five times greater risk of stroke, compared to those with a normal heart rhythm. The WATCHMAN FLX device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage to keep harmful blood clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. Over time, the risk of stroke is reduced, and patients may be able to stop taking their blood thinner medication.

“As a local cardiologist, it is important to continue advancing services for patients and bringing new resources to our local hospitals,” said Devang Desai, MD, interventional cardiologist. “The WATCHMAN procedure will benefit many patients and give them reassurance as they manage a lifelong health condition.”

Atrial fibrillation risk factors include high blood pressure, underlying heart disease, family history, sleep apnea, diabetes or other chronic conditions, and AF can impact athletes at a greater risk compared to others. In addition to a fluttering heartbeat, one may experience fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath or anxiety, weakness, faintness or confusion, sweating and chest pain or pressure. Stroke is also a common risk factor of AF, and we encourage the community to learn the warning signs of heart attack and stroke.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Stroke Warning Signs – F.A.S.T.

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 9-1-1