New heart procedure now in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A relatively new heart procedure that many say is life changing is now available in Savannah.

St. Joseph's/Candler is one of only two medical facilities in all of Georgia to offer it. It's called the Watchman device.  It's an implant for people with atrial fibrillation.  The device helps protect against blood clots and stroke and means patients can be off blood thinners indefinitely.

"My heart missed a beat and I was breathing like a racehorse," said Jerry Gringer, a Watchman patient.

Gringer lives in Statesboro and has atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. Doctors at St. Joseph's/Candler in Savannah recommended he try a new implant called the Watchman.

"What the device does is it plugs up a pouch in the top part of the heart where clots form in patients who have atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Arthur Kendig, a cardiologist at St. Joseph's/Candler.

Dr. Kendig performed the procedure.

"We go through the groin on both sides, take the vein up into the heart, and then cross the middle part of the heart where this little pouch is located.  We implant the device in there, make sure everything looks good and then let it go and let it do its job," he said.

Basically, blocking the pouch with the Watchman helps prevent blood clots and stroke. However, that's not all.

"It's a big deal because of a lot of patients who have a-fib are on blood thinners to prevent strokes.  But, unfortunately, those blood thinners can cause bleeding complications as well.  This actually prevents the strokes without having bleeding complications.  They can come off their blood thinners pretty much long term," said Dr. Kendig.

So far, his patients are beyond pleased.

"It's absolutely life changing procedure for a lot of people," he said.

"It's like a miracle. Maybe 25-30 years back when they didn't have this I wouldn't be talking to you maybe," said Gringer. "Dr. Kendig, I swear he helped save my life."

Dr. Kendig says this is a very safe procedure with great results.  They started performing the procedure in June and so far have a 100 percent success rate.

To learn more about the Watchman device and the procedure, please click here.

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