The Watchman Device for Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm issue. Because of the increased risk of stroke, most patients with Afib will take blood thinners for life. 

But what if they didn’t have to?

An implantable device called the Watchman can dramatically lower stroke risk due to atrial fibrillation. It’s an alternative to traditional methods for some patients with Afib.

Traditional treatment approaches

Traditionally, patients with atrial fibrillation were put on blood thinners, with the most common option being warfarin. While blood thinners reduce the risk of stroke, they also come with other risks, such as increased risk of bleeding from minor cuts or bruises. 

Newer blood thinners known as novel oral anticoagulants (or NOACs) may still cause bleeding, but they’re less likely to cause the most dangerous type of bleeding inside the brain. They still carry a risk, though.

The Watchman aims to replace them.

How the Watchman works

Blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation are most likely to occur inside the left atrial appendage. This small pouch sticks out of the heart and has a tendency to get less blood flow than the rest of the heart. The clots that form in this pouch can travel to the brain and cause a stroke in some individuals.

The Watchman is basically a little basket or filter that sits right at the entrance to the left atrial appendage. This basket strains clots out of the bloodstream to keep them from passing to other more vulnerable areas of the body. The procedure to place the Watchman is minimally invasive and involves a catheter inserted through a leg vein and guided to the heart to insert the filter.

Watchman benefits and risks

The Watchman can be a good alternative for patients who would usually take warfarin, especially those who are at risk of further complications due to the blood thinner. In almost all cases, patients can stop taking blood thinners within a few months after the device is implanted.

As with any surgery, there are some risks to the procedure, and there are a small number of patients who aren’t eligible. But overall it’s an excellent alternative for patients who can’t continue to take daily blood thinners.

Curious if the Watchman is an option for treating your atrial fibrillation? Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.