Left Atrial Appendage Closure
What is the WATCHMAN™ Device?
WATCHMAN™ is a one-time, minimally-invasive cardiology procedure for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem. It is a permanent heart implant that closes off the left atrial appendage, preventing blood clots from moving out of it.
The left atrial appendage is a small sac in the muscle wall of your left atrium, the top left chamber of your heart. This appendage doesn't have a function, so your heart can continue to do its job even with it closed.
If you have atrial fibrillation, you are three to five times more likely to have a stroke compared to the general population. Studies have shown that most of the blood clots that happen in the left atrium start in the left atrial appendage. With a WATCHMAN™ device, your risk of stroke can be reduced considerably.
Risks and Benefits of WATCHMAN™ Implant
For most patients, the relatively low procedural risks are outweighed by the benefits of reducing stroke risk long-term without blood thinners. Careful patient selection is key to achieving the best outcomes.
Benefits of the WATCHMAN™ Implant
- Reduces stroke risk
Studies show the device reduces the risk of stroke by over 60% in people with Afib not caused by a heart valve problem.
- Eliminates need for blood thinners
After implantation and some period of blood thinner treatment, medications like warfarin are no longer needed.
- Improves quality of life
Eliminating the need for chronic blood thinner use improves activity levels and reduces bleeding risk and dietary restrictions. One-time procedure - Once implanted, the device requires no ongoing adjustments or maintenance.
- Covers the LAA permanently
It provides a lifetime solution for stroke prevention in Afib patients by sealing off the left atrial appendage.
Potential Risks of the WATCHMAN™
- Device dislodgement
- Blood clot formation
- Anesthesia risks
What to Expect Before, During, and After
We will perform the left atrial appendage closure using general anesthesia. During the procedure, our specialists will insert a catheter through a vein in your leg, advancing it until it reaches the upper right chamber of your heart. The catheter will serve as the delivery tube for the device.
We will make a small hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart so that the catheter reaches the left atrium. Via the delivery catheter, we insert the device into the left atrial appendage, where it expands and is permanently implanted. Once the device is in place, it takes about 45 days for a thin layer of tissue to grow around it and fill in the gaps. This closure prevents blood clots that form in the left atrial appendage from entering the bloodstream.
Am I a Candidate for the WATCHMAN™ Device?
Taking blood thinners is a common way for atrial fibrillation patients to reduce their risk of stroke. However, the longer you take blood thinners, the more at risk you become for a bleeding episode. Those who have a history of serious bleeding may be good candidates for the WATCHMAN™ implant. You may also be a candidate if you have a lifestyle or condition that increases your risk of bleeding.
Not everyone is a candidate for the WATCHMAN™ implant. This procedure is only recommended for those who have atrial fibrillation that is not caused by a heart valve problem. If you qualify for the procedure, we will perform testing to confirm the correct left atrial appendage size prior to the procedure. We will also perform testing after the procedure to confirm that your heart tissue has grown over the WATCHMAN™ implant — a sign that your left atrial appendage is permanently sealed.