Kent Pollock gets bumped by his grandkids and gets a bruise. Cuts have lasted a lot longer, and he’s gotten nosebleeds. He’s stopped going to the gym because of the medications. So Dec. 27, and the point 45 days after where he may be able to stop taking blood thinners, was a day he’s been waiting for for years.
“I’ve lost a lot of body strength and functional capacity because of being on these,” Pollock said.
Pollock, a 72-year-old who lives in Cedar Hills, is one of three Utah County residents who may soon be able to stop taking blood thinners after undergoing a procedure that recently became available in the county.
WATCHMAN, a left atrial appendage closure device, allows people to stop taking blood thinners if they have atrial fibrillation that’s not caused by heart valve problems. It’s a permanent implant that reduces the risk of a stroke as much as a blood thinner, and nine out of 10 patients can stop taking blood thinners 45 days after the procedure.
“It’s a technology we have been watching carefully for some time,” said David Wang, a cardiologist at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem, who implanted the devices.
The WATCHMAN is a size of a quarter and is implanted after a doctor makes a small cut in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube to guide the device into the left atrial appendage of the heart.
For now, Wang is being selective about the patients who undergo the procedure to get the device.
Beverly Burgi, a 82-year-old who lives in Orem, has experienced problems with blood thinners. After falling one night, her nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. She was taken to the emergency room to receive blood.
She received the device in December and is looking forward to returning to gardening.
“My kids told me I have to keep it easy, and it is hard for me to keep it easy,” Burgi said.
After hearing about the implant, Pollock started reading research on the device, which calmed his worries about it possibly getting dislodged.
Now, he’s planning for when he can stop taking the medication.
“I want to go back to the gym,” Pollock said. “I am retired and I want to have a healthy life, and I don’t want to have to deal with the side effects.”