The WATCHMAN™ device

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

WATCHMAN deviceAtrial 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.

The WATCHMAN™ implant 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.

If you meet the below criteria, you may be a candidate for WATCHMAN™:

  • You have atrial fibrillation not caused 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.