Tom DoroughTom Dorough

The 20+-year-old lead wires on Tom Dorough’s implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) were the oldest ones that cardiac electrophysiologist Jim Stone, M.D., had ever replaced. “I’m glad I won that award,” quips Dorough, who suffered his first attack in 1997.

In fact, the Tupelo resident is now on his fourth ICD, a small battery-powered device in his chest that continuously monitors his heartbeat and delivers electric shocks, when needed, to restore a regular rhythm.

Tom suffers from atrial fibrillation, a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast. Because the heart’s upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively, blood can stagnate and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. If a clot forms there, it can break loose and cause a stroke. For years, Tom took blood thinning medication to prevent clots.

While very effective, these medications can, in rare cases, lead to serious abdominal bleeding like Tom experienced in 2020. Dr. Stone recommended the Watchman, a device that serves as a plug, sealing the left atrial appendage to keep larger blood clots from entering the bloodstream. The Watchman procedure took less than an hour in NMMC’s Electrophysiology Laboratory, and Tom went home that afternoon.

“I was glad to get off blood thinner,” Tom says. “Now I don’t nearly bleed to death when I cut myself, and I don’t have to have my blood checked every few months.”

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