Device for irregular heartbeat may be more cost-effective than medication

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A study by a Yale researchers has found that the use of The Watchman, a catheter-delivered device, used for patients suffering from irregular heart rhythms is more cost effective than medication.

The Watchman is a permanent implant in the opening of the left atrial appendage (LAA) that is used in patients with an abnormal irregular heart rhythm or atrial fibrillation. It is placed at the opening of the LAA, where a thin layer of tissue grows over it and is able to prevent blood clots and stroke.

As a treatment for atrial fibrillation, the device may become more widely used compared to standard blood thinning medications such as warfarin, which raises the risk of bleeding. Researchers have developed a statistical model based on data from two key research trials, known as PROTECT AF and PREVAIL, to analyze the cost effective properties of this new device.

"What we know is that the PROTECT AF trial enrolled more patients and has longer follow-up at this time and this allows greater statistical certainty," said James Freeman, MD, assistant professor of cardiology and first author on the paper. "Based on that, the study may provide more certainty in terms of cost-effectiveness."

Freeman noted, however, longer-term results are needed to be completely certain of the device's value in clinical practice, he said.

While results from the study varied, researchers agreed the Watchman appeared to be more cost-effective in the larger, longer-term trial.