The WATCHMAN™ device
WATCHMAN™ – an alternative to long-term blood thinners
Why choose UCHealth?
When you choose UCHealth for heart and vascular care, you’re taking advantage of our expertise in using advanced, proven technology to deliver top-quality patient care. As part of our focus on advanced clinical technology, UCHealth was the first in Colorado to offer the WATCHMAN™ device. Since then, UCHealth has performed the most WATCHMAN™ implants out of any health system in the state.
Atrial fibrillation (“AFib”) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It affects over 5 million adults in the United States.
AFib can decrease the heart’s pumping efficiency by as much as 30%. Poor pumping increases the risk of clots forming in the heart chambers, especially the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small pouch in the heart’s left upper chamber. If one of these clots breaks off and travels to the brain, it may cause a stroke. For people who have AFib, the LAA is the clot source for approximately 90% of all strokes. The WATCHMAN™ device permanently plugs the LAA.
An alternative to warfarin
WATCHMAN™ is as effective at reducing the risk of stroke as warfarin. But, unlike warfarin, the WATCHMAN™ device also reduces the long-term risk of bleeding. Newer alternative oral anticoagulants offer an option to warfarin, but they don’t take away the long-term risk of bleeding.
Some of the potential barriers to the use of blood thinners are:
- Increased bleeding risk, including older adults who are at a high risk for falls.
- Accessibility and ability to complete necessary blood work while on warfarin.
- Dietary interactions.
- Cost of alternative oral anticoagulants.
- Lack of reversal agents for alternative oral anticoagulants.
Your cardiologist places the WATCHMAN™ device into your heart via a minimally invasive technique using a small puncture into a vein in your groin. A catheter delivers the device to your LAA under x-ray and ultrasound guidance. The procedure typically takes 1 to 2 hours.
You will receive both local and general anesthesia for the procedure. The average length of stay following the procedure is 1 day, so most patients are able to go home the next day. For at least 6 months following the procedure you will be required to take a blood thinner, and you will be on an aspirin regimen long term.
Is WATCHMAN™ right for me?
If you meet the below criteria, you may be a candidate for WATCHMAN™:
- You have atrial fibrillation not cause by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib).
- You are on a blood thinning medication, or have been recommended by your doctor to take a blood thinning medication.
- You are looking for an alternative to long-term blood thinners.