WATCHMAN™ – an alternative to long-term blood thinners

watchmanThe WATCHMAN device is a permanent, one-time implant designed to keep harmful blood clots from entering your blood stream and potentially causing a stroke.

Why choose UCHealth?

When you choose UCHealth for heart and vascular care, you’re taking advantage of our ongoing leadership in using advanced technology to deliver top-quality, patient centered care.

As part of this advanced technology, UCHealth was the first in Colorado to offer the WATCHMAN device and has done the most WATCHMAN implants out of any health system in the state.

Reducing atrial fibrillation-related stroke risk

Atrial fibrillation (“Afib”) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, and 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 a clot 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

The procedure

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.

Watch a video about the WATCHMAN™ device


Source: Boston Scientific

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.

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