WATCHMAN offers an alternative to the lifelong use of warfarin for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib).
This permanent heart implant effectively reduces the risk of stroke—without the risk of bleeding that can come with the long-term use of warfarin (the most common blood thinner, also known as Coumadin).
WATCHMAN can eliminate the regular blood tests and food-and-drink restrictions that come with warfarin. In a clinical trial, nine out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure.
WATCHMAN is the only device of its kind approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for reducing the risk of stroke in people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.
How WATCHMAN Works
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, affects your heart’s ability to pump blood normally. This can cause blood to pool in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.
In people with non-valvular AFib, more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. The WATCHMAN implant is designed to permanently close off the LAA and keep clots from escaping. WATCHMAN is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
The WATCHMAN Procedure
WATCHMAN is implanted into your heart in a one-time procedure. It’s a permanent device that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body.
To implant WATCHMAN, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. Your doctor then guides WATCHMAN into the left atrial appendage (LAA) of your heart. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
Due to the risk of having a medical procedure, patients should not be considered for WATCHMAN if they are doing well and expect to continue doing well on blood thinners.