Westmead heart doctors flex their best moves to save Cesar’s life

Westmead Hospital cardiologist Dr Peter Fahmy

Westmead Hospital cardiologists have performed a procedure for the first time in NSW that sounds more like a wrestling move than a surgery – all to prevent stroke and save the life of a western Sydney man.

The procedure used a new, next generation, self-expanding device called the WATCHMAN FLX to perform a left atrial appendage (LAA) closure; a minimally invasive procedure to reduce the risk of stroke.

It’s performed on patients who have irregular heart rhythms known as Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and who are unable to take blood thinning medications.

Cesar Perez, 56, said he was scared when he was told he was the first person in NSW to undergo this particular procedure using the WATCHMAN FLX device.

Oakhurst resident Cesar Perez

“When I was told about having this procedure I thought they would have to cut open my chest,” Cesar said.

“But when the cardiologist explained everything, I felt at ease because it seemed less painful, easier to heal and get better.”

The Oakhurst resident first knew something was wrong with his heart after he suffered a mini-stroke in 2013.

After a second stroke in July 2015, leaving half of his body numb for a couple of days, doctors told him there was a problem with his heart – he had AF.

“It’s really hard to listen and hear when the doctors tell you something is wrong with your heart,” Cesar said.

So I trusted them and put my life in theirs and God’s hands.

“When I slept on my left side I could hear my heart beating normally and then it would slow down for a few seconds and then return to normal.”

After using blood thinners that resulted in multiple recurrent bleeds, Cesar required an alternative to reduce his risk of another stroke and was offered the LAA closure using the new device.

“The procedure changed my life! I’m feeling great, which is tremendous,” Cesar said.

Dr Fahmy was the first doctor in NSW to use the new device to perform a left atrial appendage closure.

Westmead Hospital cardiologist Dr Peter Fahmy said the LAA procedure has been performed at Westmead since 2015 while the new WATCHMAN FLX device is used for more challenging procedures.

“It’s non-invasive and involves the insertion of a tube into the patient though the groin which goes up to the heart,” Dr Fahmy said.

“The new device is attached to the tube and we’re able to insert the device into the left atrial appendage closing it off. Patients generally go home the next day after this procedure.”

Cesar put his life in Dr Fahmy’s hands, and is doing better as a result.

Westmead Hospital is a leading cardiothoracic surgical and cardiology centre and the leading centre in NSW for other cardiac procedures. This includes adult congenital cardiac surgery and interventions and cardiac electrophysiology.

“We are one of three centres nationwide involved in a study where we are comparing this device with another device. Hopefully we will have some positive results to report on soon,” Dr Fahmy said.

3-9 May is Heart Week and the Heart Foundation is encouraging GPs and health professionals to deliver more Heart Health Checks and for people to look after their heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease.

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and training precincts in Australia, featuring four major hospitals, four world-leading medical research institutes, two university campuses and the largest research intensive pathology service in NSW.