Watchman device to prevent stroke resulting from non-valvular AFibheadingContent

Posted on February 25, 2021

Diagram of the Watchman Device placement inside a human heart

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common heart condition caused by an irregular heartbeat. The most worrisome complication of atrial fibrillation is stroke. Millions of Americans live with AFib today and are at increased risk of stroke compared to patients without AFib. In atrial fibrillation patients, a stroke is often caused when a blood clot leaves the heart and travels to the brain, lodging in a blood vessel. Ninety five percent of blood clots causing stroke in AFib patients originate from an outpouching of the left atrium called the left atrial appendage (LAA). Patients with AFib are prescribed blood thinners in order to help prevent stroke. Some patients cannot take blood thinners because of bleeding problems or lifestyle choices. For these patients, the Watchman™ Left Arial Appendage Closure Device is available to help prevent stroke resulting from blood clots that originate in the LAA.

How does the Watchman device work?

During a minimally-invasive procedure, an interventional cardiologist and electrophysiologist deploy a catheter via the femoral vein up to the heart. The Watchman, a small device shaped like a basket is positioned at the opening of the LAA, effectively sealing it off and isolating it from the rest of the heart. Blood clots forming in the LAA can no longer escape and travel to the brain. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and takes approximately one hour. Patients are typically discharged the following day. As with all heart procedures there is a risk of complications. Reported complications for the Watchman procedure are rare but include perforation of the LAA, embolization of the Watchman device, stroke and bleeding.  These complications occur in less than one percent of cases at experienced centers. Your cardiologist can explain all the risks and benefits of the procedure with you in detail.

Return to quality of life and benefits of the Watchman device

After the Watchman implant, blood thinners are typically continued for 45 days. At that point, a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) will be performed to confirm that the LAA is properly closed and sealed off from the heart. If satisfied, your Cardiologist will recommend discontinuing blood thinners at that time. Favorable long-term benefits of the Watchman device include stroke prevention from non-valvular AFib.

The Watchman procedure is minimally invasive, low risk and requires very little recovery time. The majority of patients resume regular activity after implantation of the Watchman device within a couple of days.