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Gates Vascular Institute First in Western New York to Implant New WATCHMAN FLX™ Cardiac Device

Released: 9/28/2020 11:30:12 AM
The team of structural heart specialists at Gates Vascular Institute.

Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute (BGMC/GVI) is the first facility in Western New York, and among a few select hospitals in the country, to offer and successfully implant the new FDA-approved WATCHMAN FLX™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) device in 66-year-old Ray Wagner of Eden, N.Y.

According to the American Heart Association, it’s estimated that nearly 2.7 million Americans are currently living with atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart rhythm disorder. The next-generation WATCHMAN FLX™, a catheter-delivered heart insert, is shown to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with non-valvular AF who require an alternative to long-term blood thinner use by permanently closing off the left atrial appendage – the area of the heart where stroke-causing blood clots commonly form. 

Ray, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 44 and whose family has a history of cardiac disease, suffered a life-threatening brain bleed in 2018. It was then that Ray began taking blood thinners to help manage his AF. Still at high risk for another brain hemorrhage, he sought treatment from the team of experts at Gates Vascular Institute who recommended and successfully implanted the new WATCHMAN FLX™ device, which was approved by the FDA in July 2020.
The new WATCHMAN FLX™ device features a new, fully rounded design that offers physicians the ability to safely enter, and maneuver within, the left atrial appendage. It is the first LAAC device that can be fully recaptured, repositioned and redeployed for precise placement, and the new frame design allows for optimal device engagement with the tissue for long-term stability and a faster, more complete seal. The WATCHMAN FLX™ is proven to improve procedural outcomes for patients, including reduced complication risk and healing time.

The minimally-invasive procedure takes approximately 60 minutes, and once in place, reduces the risk of stroke to that of a person with a normally functioning heart. It allows for successful discontinuation of blood thinning medication, which is associated with lifelong risk of bleeding complications. Patients are also able to return home the following day.

“We are proud that Gates Vascular Institute is the only facility in the area to utilize the new WATCHMAN FLX™ device. We have a dedicated team of skilled physicians who work collaboratively to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients like Ray,” said electrophysiologist Chee Kim, MD, FACC, who performed the first WATCHMAN FLX™ implantation. “It is a permanent alternative to a lifetime spent taking blood thinning medications with minimal side effects.”

Ray, who had the device inserted last month, no longer has to worry about taking his blood thinners daily, and is still able to do the things he loves such as enjoying the outdoors and woodworking.

“The whole experience was excellent. I was the first person to have the device implanted and had great confidence in Dr. Kim and the entire team of nurses and doctors at Gates Vascular Institute. I knew they would do a great job,” Raymond explained when asked about his experience at BGMC/GVI.
 For more information on the WATCHMAN FLX™ device, visit