Penn Heart and Vascular Blog

An Alternative to Blood Thinners for Select AFib Patients The WATCHMAN Device

Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), the most common form of arrhythmia (or abnormal heart rhythm) affects an estimated 2 to 6 million Americans. The disorder occurs when the heart's normal, regular electrical impulses are replaced by a disorganized electrical pattern.

Blood Clots are a Major Risk for Patients with A-Fib

One of the functions of the heart is to break up small blood clots that occur every day in the body. Normally, the churning of the heart breaks these clots up—but when the heart isn’t beating normally, clots can form inside it in a pocket called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. Once the heart starts beating normally again, these clots can break loose and travel to the brain to cause a stroke.

WATCHMAN - A New Treatment at Penn Heart and Vascular for Blood Clots in the LAA

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 blood stream. The WATCHMAN device has been shown in clinical trials to provide comparable effectiveness in stroke prevention to warfarin.

How WATCHMAN Works

An illustration of the WATCHMAN device inserted into the heart's left atrial appendageIn 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 blood stream, 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 blood stream. The WATCHMAN device has been shown in clinical trials to provide comparable effectiveness in stroke prevention to warfarin.

Is WATCHMAN Right for You?

Penn Heart and Vascular physicians were among the first in the nation to use the WATCHMAN Device.

To find out if WATCHMAN is right for you, or to learn more about A-Fib treatment options at Penn, schedule a consultation or download our A-Fib guide.

About this Blog

The Penn Heart and Vascular blog provides the latest information on heart disease prevention, nutrition and breakthroughs in cardiovascular care.


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