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KANSAS CITY, MO., November 28, 2022 ― With recent Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month and World Stroke Day occurrences, there’s no better time to pay attention to the rhythms of the heart.

“Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month and World Stroke Day both serve as timely reminders of the increased risk of stroke among people living with AF,” states Dr. Luis F. Couchonnal, a cardiologist with the Healient Physician Group located at St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City. “An estimated 7 million Americans are projected to be affected by AF – an irregular heart rhythm that increases a patient’s risk of stroke five times.

Dr. Couchonnal says that the newest medical technology is giving hope to patients. The WATCHMAN FLX™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device, a permanent heart implant designed to reduce stroke risk in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation is one such advancement. The Watchman FLX is built upon the most studied and implanted LAAC device in the world, as an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners for people with AF not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AF). 

The Watchman FLX device closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to prevent harmful blood clots from forming in the LAA, which can result in a stroke.  By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced, and over time patients’ blood thinners can be discontinued.

“Building upon the well-established technology, the Watchman FLX device serves as a safe and effective stroke risk reduction alternative for patients with non-valvular AF, especially those with a compelling reason not to be on blood thinners,” states Dr. Couchonnal. “The proper implant of this device offers patients a potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment.”

As director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at St. Joseph Medical Center and the Healient Heart Rhythm Center. Dr. Couchonnal specializes in treatment of complex heart rhythm issues. He was recently featured on KCTV-5 to offer his expertise on treating A-Fib with the Watchman technology.

The Watchman has been implanted in more than 200,000 patients worldwide and is done in a one-time procedure. It is a permanent device that does not have to be replaced and cannot be seen outside the body. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

About Atrial Fibrillation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) beat too fast and with irregular rhythm (fibrillation). AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting up to 6 million Americans. Stroke is the most common complication of AF, and AF-related strokes are also more frequently fatal and disabling.  In people with non-valvular AF, more than 90% of all stroke-causing clots that come from the heart form in the LAA. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with AF is blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin. While very effective at reducing the risk of stroke, blood thinners increase the risk of serious bleeding over time and come with certain requirements and restrictions.

About St. Joseph Medical Center

St. Joseph Medical Center is a faith-based, 310-bed hospital providing a wide range of acute care and outpatient services.  Key services include the Senior Care Services, St. Joseph Heart Institute, Breast Center and Joint and Spine Institute. St. Joseph is a member of Prime Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading hospital systems for clinical excellence. 

Prime Healthcare and its hospitals have been recognized as among the “100 Top Hospitals” in the nation 38 times and among the “15 Top Health Systems” three times, and Prime Healthcare is the only “Top 10 Health System” west of the Mississippi. We believe that continuous, quality of care and performance improvements are the foundation for preserving and enhancing healthcare delivery. For more information, visit