The WATCHMAN Device is an alternative to blood thinners now available to prevent blood clots from forming in the hearts of patients with A-Fib.
The traditional treatment for clot prevention in patients with A-Fib is warfarin, a common blood-thinner (or anticoagulant) associated with many unpleasant and challenging side effects.
At Penn Heart & Vascular, however, the WATCHMAN LAA Closure Device is now available to prevent blood clots from forming in the hearts of patients whose A-Fib is not caused by, or related to, heart valve problems. This new technology presents an alternative to long-term warfarin therapy for patients at an elevated risk for A-fib related stroke and bleeding.
The WATCHMAN Device is implanted inside the LAA. By closing off the left atrial appendage, blood clots that form within the LAA are prevented from entering the bloodstream. The WATCHMAN device has been shown in clinical trials to provide comparable effectiveness in stroke prevention to warfarin.
How Does the WATCHMAN Device Work?
In A-Fib, the irregular heartbeat can cause blood clots to form. Most blood clots that begin in the heart are formed in the left atrial appendage (LAA). If these blood clots travel outside the heart through the bloodstream, it can cause a stroke.
The WATCHMAN device is implanted inside the LAA. By closing off the left atrial appendage, blood clots that form within the LAA are prevented from entering the bloodstream. The WATCHMAN device has been shown in clinical trials to provide comparable effectiveness in stroke prevention to warfarin.
Benefits of WATCHMAN Device
- Reduces stroke by preventing blood clots from forming in the left atrial appendage.
- The procedure is minimally invasive. You do not have to have your chest opened.
- Recovery tends to be quicker and easier than with open surgery. Most patients leave the hospital one day after the procedure.
- Most people can return to normal activity within a few days to a week.
Risks and Outcomes
- The left atrial appendage is a relatively thinly walled structure. The device can apply pressure on the LAA. It is possible that the LAA could rupture while the device is deployed. This is a very dangerous complication that would require emergency heart surgery to repair.
- There is a risk of infection at the access site where the catheter was inserted into the blood vessel that leads the heart. The access site is typically in the upper leg. Your healthcare team will need to monitor these areas to be sure they heal properly.
- The patient will most likely have to continue taking aspirin.
Is the WATCHMAN Device Right for You?
Penn Heart and Vascular physicians were among the first in the nation to use the WATCHMAN Device. If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, WATCHMAN may be right for you. Your cardiologist will weigh your risk of a stroke against your risk of a serious bleeding problem to determine the right treatment for you.