KEARNEY, Neb. — An innovative procedure that benefits people affected by Atrial Fibrillation is now being offered in Central Nebraska.

Kearney Regional Medical announced Wednesday that Dr. Vivek Varma is a certified implanter of the WATCHMAN device. He is the only implanter in Nebraska outside of Lincoln and Omaha.

The procedure treats AFib, an irregular heartbeat that puts people at five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms. The hospital says the WATCHMAN is designed to keep blood clots from forming in the left atrial appendage (LAA), entering the blood stream, and potentially causing a stroke. It works as an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners.

“I’m proud to be able to offer this technology as it offers our patients a potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment and will allow us to treat a broader range of patients going forward,” Varma said in a statement.

The WATCHMAN implant is placed into a person’s heart in a minimally invasive, one-time procedure that is typically done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. It’s a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body.