A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce A-Fib Stroke Risk
How Does AFib Increase Stroke Risk?
An estimated six million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation (AFib) – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart. Patients with AFib have a five-fold increased risk of stroke because their blood isn’t pumped out of the heart normally, making it easier for blood clots to form in an area of heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. Learn more about atrial fibrillation and stroke risk.
An Alternative to Blood Thinners
Blood thinning medication, also called anticoagulant therapy, is an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems. However, blood thinners may not be ideal for all patients as they increase risks associated with bleeding. Your doctor may consider an alternative to blood thinners, such as the WATCHMAN™ Implant.
WATCHMAN™ is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib) who need an alternative to blood thinners. The device is the only FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with non-valvular AFib. It’s about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants. Cape Cod Healthcare Heart and Vascular Institute has been offering this advanced treatment since 2016, with over 150 successful implants completed.
How WATCHMAN™ Works
In people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. The WATCHMAN™ Implant fits right into the LAA and is designed to permanently close it off, preventing harmful blood clots from forming.
WATCHMAN™ is implanted into your heart in a minimally invasive, one-time procedure. To implant WATCHMAN, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. The doctor then guides WATCHMAN™ into your heart’s LAA. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
WATCHMAN FLX™ – The Next Generation is Here
Science always looks for ways to make effective treatments even better. WATCHMAN™ is no exception. The WATCHMAN FLX™ design is an advancement currently used by the Cape Cod Healthcare Heart and Vascular Institute that enables the implant to fit a greater number of patients, giving more people than ever a safe, effective alternative to blood thinners should they need one.
After the Procedure
Following the WATCHMAN™ procedure, your doctor will prescribe blood thinning medication for 45 days or until your LAA is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor this process by taking pictures of your heart to see when you can stop taking your blood thinners.
Your doctor will then prescribe a medicine called clopidogrel and aspirin for you to take for four months. After that, you’ll continue to take aspirin on an ongoing basis. A very small number of patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long term.
Is WATCHMAN™Right for You?
If you have a history of bleeding, an active lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding including a fall risk, WATCHMAN™ may be right for you. Talk to your cardiologist about whether you may be a candidate for WATCHMAN™. Your physician may also refer you to attend an educational session with the WATCHMAN™ Clinic at Cape Cod Healthcare.
For more information, please visit the WATCHMAN™ website.