Life Saving Procedure is Now Available in Montana

We're excited to share that Kalispell Regional Healthcare, Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung Clinic has added a new procedure that will save many Montanans! The procedure gives patients with AFib, an irregular heartbeat that increases risk for stroke, a permanent stroke prevention device without taking blood thinners.

hero_image_alt_text===Nurse helping a patient in bed
thumbnail_alt_text===A nurse helping a patient in bed

Local news station KPAX covered the exciting news and we wanted to make sure and share it with you.

Kalispell Regional Medical Center implemented structural heart services in November of 2016 and since the inception of the services, the clinic has grown and continued to thrive, adding more vital procedures each year.

MTN News paid a visit to the hospital to see how the most recent addition of a heart procedure will help numerous people.

The Rocky Mountain Heart and Lung Clinic provides cardiac and pulmonary care to those in the Flathead Valley and beyond. The clinic just recently added a new heart procedure rounding out the list of nearly every FDA approved heart procedure offered here at the hospital.

The new procedure helps those with Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly, heightening the patient's risk of stroke by five times. Afib is the most common cause of stroke worldwide.

“Currently we have around 20 million people living in the United States with who are at risk for Atrial Fibrillation and about...80% have Atrial Fibrillation. And it is estimated that by 2050 the population of atrial fibrillation will go up to as high as 40 million,” said clinic director Mayank Agrawal.

The procedure runs a catheter through the femoral vein in the leg running up to the outward patch of the heart where the blood clot has occurred. An umbrella-shaped device called a Watchman is put into the back of the left atrium of the heart, allowing the patient to have a permanent stroke prevention device.

“This is what we put inside of the patients and it comes in various sizes and depending upon every patient we choose that particular size and put it in. Once it is in the body forms a tissue over this device and once the tissue is formed then we can stop the patient's blood thinner for life,” Agrawal said. 

Before the Watchman was invented, many people took blood thinners to reduce the threat of stroke. However, a lot of patient’s bodies can’t handle that form of treatment.

“Ten-to-15% of patients can’t tolerate blood thinners. They bleed, they bruise. You know bloody noses are very common and these can be life-threatening for them,” said Rocky Mountain Heart and Lung Clinic Director of Cardiology Robert Mitchell.

And if blood thinners didn’t work the hospital would have to regress to less effective methods, such as aspirin. “Some people can’t even tolerate that and they’re just a walking stroke risk, which is a horrible situation to be in, said Mitchell.

In the past, those patients would typically have to seek medical attention in a different state, until now.

“We used to send out people for pacemakers and procedures such as this to either Spokane, Washington or Utah, the Mayo Clinic. Patients in Montana can now stay here in Montana and get the same procedures at those major centers,” said Mitchell. 


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