Former educator gets breakthrough new heart procedure, saving her life

alex brown

SAN ANTONIO- A woman has undergone a breakthrough new procedure that doctors are saying probably saved her life. Methodist Hospital is first in Southwest Texas, and second in the state, to perform the first implant of the next-generation WATCHMAN FLX™ device. The new device is designed to lessen stroke risk […]

SAN ANTONIO- A woman has undergone a breakthrough new procedure that doctors are saying probably saved her life.

Methodist Hospital is first in Southwest Texas, and second in the state, to perform the first implant of the next-generation WATCHMAN FLX™ device.

The new device is designed to lessen stroke risk for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Patients with AF have an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart and are at five times greater risk for experiencing strokes, Methodist Hospital says. 

Implanting the device closes off an area of the heart that prevents harmful blood clots from forming and entering the blood stream, potentially causing a stroke.

Frances Rhodes, PhD said after a record high cedar fever hit Texas in late 2019, she noticed her health turned for the unexpected worse. In December 2019, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. 

Her cardiologist encouraged her to see Dr. David Pederson, Cardiac Electrophysiologist with Methodist Hospital for next steps in treatment.

Dr. Rhodes underwent a procedure to treat her irregular heart rhythm. Despite the effectiveness of the procedure, she was placed on a blood thinner to prevent any blood clots from forming. 

She then started experiencing bruising, internal bleeding in her intestines and high blood pressure.

Dr. Pederson advised her about a device procedurally implanted that would close off her left atrial appendage as an alternative to lifelong use of blood thinners. 

“I didn’t want to end up having a stroke,” Dr. Rhodes recalled. “It [the procedure] sounded like a no-brainer to me. I said ‘Go for it. I’m ready right now!’” ‘

On August 7, Dr. Pederson performed the first procedure in Southwest Texas incorporating the new stroke reduction device into Dr. Rhodes’ left atrial appendage. 

“This is a significant advancement in technology that allows us to provide superior care to our patients. We can offer them a better, safer procedure to prevent strokes,” said Dr. Pederson.

“Because it is more versatile, the new device allows for more efficient, quicker implants with less risk of complications. We will be able to implant more patients than we could with the older model device,” commented Dr. Pederson.

Methodist Hospital ranks third out of 61 HCA Healthcare programs in the nation to implant left atrial appendage devices, having recently performed their 400th procedure with the original model.

“We are excited to be able to bring this new technology to San Antonio. Our site was chosen because we already have a large volume of cases with great outcomes,” commented Dr. Pederson. “This will allow our program at Methodist Hospital to continue to grow and serve our community.”

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