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New Technology at St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Reduces the Risk of Stroke

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Pictured from left to right: Satish Velagapudi, M.D., Ravinder Bachireddy, M.D., Rohit Kedia, M.D., M. Musa Khan, M.D., and Ilyas Khan, M.D.

Pictured from left to right: Ilyas Khan, M.D., Satish Velagapudi, M.D., Royce Hopson, and Rohit Kedia, M.D.

St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Lufkin, in conjunction with the physicians of the Heart Institute of East Texas, continues to lead the way in bringing trail blazing new technology to deep East Texas. The WATCHMAN device offers patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation an alternative to long-term warfarin medication and reduces the risk of stroke.   

Lufkin native Royce Hopson, 69, said she has a family history of stroke, and she suffers from a common kind of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. AFib is a condition where the upper heart chambers quiver and shake and do not contract as they should, making it easier for blood cells to stick together and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA is believed to be the source of the majority of stroke-causing blood clots.

Hopson said she began experiencing hot flashes, weakness and nausea in August of last year. After seeing a family physician, she was told she was on the verge of having a stroke.

“He told me to go to the heart doctor. He was begging me, telling me, ‘I’m trying to save your life.’ So I went, and I’m glad I did.”

After taking blood thinners for the past several months, Hopson and her cardiac electrophysiologist Rohit Kedia, M.D. decided it was time for further action. Dr. Kedia said she was the perfect candidate for the FDA-approved implant. The minimally invasive procedure was performed in the St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Cath Lab on Tuesday, February 20 by Dr. Kedia along with Satish Velagapudi, M.D. and Ilyas Khan, M.D., all board certified cardiologists with the Heart Institute of East Texas.  Dr. Kedia said, “it was a great team effort.”

“This procedure is a landmark example of the outstanding medical care we are capable of providing right here in Lufkin,” said Dr. Kedia, Cardiac Electrophysiologist at the Heart Institute of East Texas. “The WATCHMAN implant will help Ms. Hopson and many similar patients in the future have a safer and better quality of life.”

The WATCHMAN implant, inserted by a catheter through a small incision in the groin, closes off the left atrial appendage where 90% of stroke-causing clots come from, reducing the risk of a potential stroke. Over time, patients may be able to stop taking warfarin medication.  

The average person with atrial fibrillation is five times more likely to suffer a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. Most of these patients are well managed on required blood thinners, such as warfarin and other anticoagulants. However, when those anticoagulants are contraindicated, such as in patients who have a prior history bleeding or who are at a high risk of falling, then the WATCHMAN may be a suitable alternative.

“This is a testament to the technical capabilities and expertise of the physicians and staff of the St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Cath Lab to perform these complex and state-of-the-art procedures here in town,” said M. Musa Khan, M.D., St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Chief of Staff and Cath Lab Director.

Hopson said she felt honored to be the area’s first recipient of this unique technology and excited that the procedure went so well. She was released from St. Luke’s Health-Memorial the very next day. St. Luke’s Health-Memorial and the physicians at the Heart Institute of East Texas expect many more patients in the future will benefit from the WATCHMAN implant.

“The Heart Institute of East Texas is excited to announce another major milestone for the East Texas area. The cardiologists of the Heart Institute of East Texas brought the WATCHMAN device and procedure to our area,” said Ravinder Bachireddy, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at St. Luke’s Health-Memorial and President of the Heart Institute of East Texas. “This is the state-of-the-art, as well as, life-altering procedure especially for atrial fibrillation patients in our community who need it. Patients and their families will no longer have to travel to Houston or other big cities for this treatment. This new innovation will solidify Lufkin as a Regional Medical Center for cardiovascular care.” 

In December 2017, Dr. Kedia also implanted the area’s first Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, a new, innovative leadless, pill-sized pacemaker for high risk cardiac patients, in the St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Cath Lab. 

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