If you have atrial fibrillation that is not caused by a heart valve problem – a condition called non-valvular Afib – WATCHMAN may be a treatment option for you. WATCHMAN is a permanent heart implant that allows patients to stop long-term use of warfarin, a common blood thinner used to treat Afib.
The WATCMAN implant reduces patients’ risk of stroke without the risk of bleeding associated with blood thinners like warfarin. Patients with WATCHMAN also benefit by not having to have regular blood tests or diet restrictions associated with warfarin use.
How WATCHMAN works
Afib affects the heart’s ability to pump blood, causing blood to collect in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. When that happens, blood cells can form a clot and travel to another part of the body, which can stop the blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke.
For people with non-valvular Afib, stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are often formed in the LAA. The WATCHMAN implant – which is about the size of a quarter – addresses this problem by closing off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping.
The WATCHMAN procedure
WATCHMAN is a permanent device that’s implanted into your heart during a single procedure. It does not have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body.
Your doctor will make a small cut in your upper leg, insert a narrow tube and guide the WATCHMAN implant into the LAA. Patients will be put under general anesthesia, and the procedure takes about an hour. Patients usually stay in the hospital overnight.
Patients who have had no problems with blood thinners should not be considered for WATCHMAN.