Statistics show that people with untreated Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) have a five times greater stroke risk compared to that of a person with a normal heart rhythm. In people with AFib, the heart’s electrical system causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat irregularly and often, too rapidly. Most strokes caused by AFib are due to blood clots that form in a small pocket of the heart called the left atrial appendage. These blood clots can break loose and travel to other parts of the body. When a clot travels to the brain, a serious stroke can occur.

Therefore, most people with atrial fibrillation are prescribed anti-clotting medication. However, not everyone tolerates blood thinners well, and some people have medical conditions that preclude taking them. In addition, long-term use of blood thinners is associated with a higher risk of bleeding.

A One-time Procedure that Reduces Stroke Risk for a Lifetime

The WATCHMAN implant is a minimally invasive alternative to anticoagulation medication for the treatment of AFib. The only implant of its kind approved by the FDA, this small implantable stent is designed to close off the left atrial appendage so that blood clots cannot form there. Over 100,000 people worldwide have received the implant, with excellent outcomes. In a clinical trial, 9 out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure and 99 out of 100 people were able to stop taking warfarin within a year after the procedure.

The WATCHMAN Procedure

Roughly the size of a quarter, the WATCHMAN fits into the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart. The procedure does not require open-heart surgery. To implant WATCHMAN, an interventional cardiologist makes a small cut in a vein in the groin. Using guided imaging, a narrow tube is threaded up to the heart through the vein. Then, WATCHMAN is introduced through the tube and positioned in place to close off the left atrial appendage. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and typically takes about an hour.

After the procedure, patients usually spend one night in the hospital and go home the next day. Over the next six weeks, heart tissue grows over the WATCHMAN implant, forming a permanent barrier against blood clots. Patients continue to take a blood thinner for about 45 days, until their LAA is permanently closed off.

Listen to Arun Raghupathy, MD, FACC's Healing Podcast discuss the Watchman procedure as an alternative to blood thinners for AFib patients.

Who is a Good Candidate for WATCHMAN?

WATCHMAN is appropriate for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem. Traditionally, the initial treatment approach is the use of blood thinners such as warfarin. If you are doing well on blood thinners, WATCHMAN is probably not the best treatment option for you. However, some patients need an alternative to blood thinners for one of more of the following reasons:

  • A history of serious bleeding while taking blood thinners
  • A lifestyle, occupation, or condition that increases the risk of serious bleeding
  • Trouble tolerating warfarin when a different type of blood thinner is not an option

If you feel that the WATCHMAN Implant might may be right for you, take our quiz and answer a few quick questions about your overall health so we can help you and your physician decide if you are a good candidate for the WATCHMAN implant.

Take The WATCHMAN Quiz

Who is NOT a Good Candidate for WATCHMAN?

WATCHMAN is an effective minimally invasive procedure that can reduce your stroke risk for a lifetime. Like all procedures there are certain risks associated with left atrial appendage closure. Talk to your cardiologist to discuss the potential risks and benefits and help decide if WATCHMAN is right for you.

Watch this video to learn more about Atrial Fibrillation treatment and the Watchman Implant procedure from Arun Raghupathy, MD, FACC.