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Beebe’s Structural Heart Program Marks Key Milestones, Demonstrating Innovative Cardiovascular Care

First Amulet patient

From left to right, Marcelle Brady, RN, Margaret Erner, Jordana Bumgarner, RTR, Annie Villalobos, MSN, Tammy Kelly, RN, Donna Fleitz, RN, and Mouhanad Freih, MD

Beebe Healthcare’s Cardiovascular team recently celebrated two milestone procedures that provide the latest, most advanced care for patients.

The healthcare system continues to look for innovative technologies, devices, and procedures to provide the best care for Sussex County – most recently launching use of the Amulet device and completing the 200th Watchman device implant in the cath lab. Both are Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) devices, used to treat patients who have been diagnosed with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.

“Both the Watchman and the Amulet are powerful assets in our arsenal of tools to prevent stroke,” said Annie Villalobos, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, Structural Heart Program Coordinator and Clinical Nurse Specialist. “Decisions about which device is best for each patient are made based on what the imaging shows us, and how the patient’s anatomy is structured. The availability of Amulet gives us new options to ensure complete closure of the left atrial appendage and signifies Beebe’s commitment to having the right systems in place to care for every unique patient.”

Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that increases risk for stroke and requires that many patients rely on anticoagulation medications, long-term. The introduction of the Amulet, and continued successful use of the Watchman, offers patients new, life-changing options. The two devices are similar in that they are both used to close openings between the left atrium and the appendage. What varies is their shape and size. Having both options means Beebe’s structural heart team can more effectively treat patients with left atrial openings that vary in depth and size.

Beebe introduced use of the Watchman device in 2018. The first patient to receive the Amulet device implantation was in December 2023. Beebe’s Structural Heart Program is led by Mouhanad Freih, MD, who serves as Medical Director, and Ehtasham Qureshi, MD, Chief of Cardiology, along with Villalobos. Electrophysiologists Michael Sabadish, MD, and Maria Pia Del Corral, MD, have also played an instrumental role in the growth of the program, and Beebe’s ability to introduce the Amulet device. A special thanks also to Georges Dahr, MD, and Jillian Dashiell, MD, as the intraprocedural transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) imaging specialists for LAAC. Additionally, collaboration with Beebe’s cardiovascular surgeons, operating room team, and catheterization lab team is essential in the delivery of comprehensive, quality-centric, outcomes-based care for every patient.

“We are incredibly proud of our team and appreciate the tremendous amount of time, energy, and passion that has gone into bringing these lifesaving devices to Beebe, and perfecting our practices for the benefit of the patients we serve,” said Tracy Belcher, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CCRP, LSSGB, Director of Cardiovascular Operations and Outpatient Infusion Center at Beebe Healthcare.

“The need for state-of-the-art care that is also local and close to home is clear. Two hundred patients have now received the Watchman device, and now, with the introduction of the Amulet device, we can offer even more options for care that is customized to the individual. The very highest quality heart care is absolutely available, right here at Beebe.”

Watchman team

From left to right, Annie Villalobos, MSN, Mouhanad Freih, MD, Lori Kline, RN, Bob Henchy, Boston Scientific, Georges Dahr, MD, Paul Peet, MD, Alberto Rosa, MD, and Ehtasham Qureshi, MD.