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New stroke-preventing procedure for Townsville

Townsville people at risk of stroke now have access to a potentially life-saving procedure, performed recently at Mater Private Hospital Townsville for the first time. 

Cardiologist Associate Professor Bobby John performed the first implantation of the WATCHMAN device in Townsville on local man Frank Cerutti. 

Mr Cerutti is one of the up to 400,000 Australians affected by atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). 

Dr John is the only specialist north of Rockhampton qualified to use the device, meaning Townsville patients no longer have to go through the public system in Brisbane for the procedure, where there is a six-to-nine month wait. 

Dr John said the WATCHMAN is a small umbrella-like implant which gave patients an alternative to the traditional stroke prevention treatment of blood thinners. 

The WATCHMAN can reduce the risk of stroke by sealing off the left atrial appendage – a pouch in the heart where more than 90 per cent of stroke-causing blood clots that come from the heart are formed
Dr Bobby John

Dr John said being able to access the device was especially good news for local patients like Mr Cerutti who had atrial fibrillation, and whose bone marrow did not make enough blood. 

“If these patients use the traditional stroke-prevention treatment of blood thinners and they then have a bleeding episode, it can be very dangerous,” he said. 

Mr Cerutti said he was grateful for being able to access the device. 

“Before, the potential of a bad bleeding episode was always there for me, but now, having the WATCHMAN means I don’t have to worry about that.” 

Dr John said beyond patients in Mr Cerutti’s specific situation, there was also a substantial number of those living with atrial fibrillation who had been prescribed blood thinners and were simply not taking them. 

“Research shows 15-to-20 per cent of these patients don’t take their blood thinners because of fear of bleeding,” Dr John said. 

“This is concerning because they then have no protection against stroke. 

“Now with the WATCHMAN there is an alternative.” 

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