What is Watchman Surgery?
Watchman surgery provides an innovative solution to reduce stroke risk in AFib patients without the need for long-term anticoagulant therapy. During the procedure, our interventional cardiologists or electrophysiologists implant the Watchman device in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small pouch-like structure in the heart where blood clots often form. The device acts as a barrier, effectively closing off the appendage and preventing blood clots from entering the bloodstream. Over time, the body's tissue grows over the Watchman device, permanently sealing off the appendage.
Risks & Benefits of Watchman Surgery
The Watchman device is typically used to help patients who are not able to take blood thinners because they have trouble with bleeding or are at risk of bleeding complications from blood thinners (due to substantial risk of falls). The considerable benefits of the Watchman implant for reducing stroke risk in atrial fibrillation patients often outweigh the relatively low procedural risks. The Watchman device is a permanent implant, but it does not require any maintenance or follow-up care.
Benefits of Watchman Surgery:
- Stroke Risk Reduction
By sealing off the left atrial appendage, the Watchman device significantly lowers the risk of stroke associated with AFib.
- No More Blood Thinners
For patients who are intolerant to anticoagulant medications or at risk of bleeding complications, Watchman surgery provides a safe alternative, eliminating the need for long-term blood-thinning medications.
- Quick Recovery
Watchman surgery is minimally invasive, involving a short hospital stay and faster recovery compared to traditional open-heart surgeries.
- Long-term Solution
Once the Watchman device is implanted, it provides a permanent solution to reduce stroke risk without the need for ongoing interventions.
Risks of Watchman Surgery:
- Blood Clot Formation
Although the device is designed to prevent blood clots, there is a small risk of clot formation around the implant site early after the procedure.
- Device Migration
In rare cases, the Watchman device may shift or move from its intended position, requiring additional intervention.
- Pericardial Effusion
A pericardial effusion, where fluid accumulates around the heart, can occur in some patients after the procedure. This is typically managed with monitoring until the fluid is absorbed by the body, or, if needed, by draining the fluid.
As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of infection at the incision site or around the implanted device.
- Allergic Reaction
In rare cases, an individual may experience an allergic reaction to the materials used in the Watchman device.
What to Expect Before, During, and After Watchman Surgery
Before your Watchman procedure, your cardiologist will thoroughly evaluate your medical history and heart health through testing to determine if you are a candidate. You will receive detailed instructions to properly prepare for the implant procedure.
During the procedure, our highly skilled interventional cardiologist or electrophysiologist will perform a minimally invasive catheter-based intervention to precisely deploy the Watchman device in your heart's left atrial appendage. This innovative device seals off the appendage to reduce stroke risk from blood clots that can form in patients with atrial fibrillation.
After the Watchman procedure, you will be monitored in the hospital overnight to ensure a smooth recovery. Our care team will provide instructions for wound care, medications, and activity restrictions during your post-procedure recovery period. Long-term follow-up is essential to assess the Watchman device's effectiveness and maintain optimal heart health. Your cardiologist will schedule regular check-ups. Here are some points to consider after a Watchman procedure:
- You may need to take blood-thinning medications for a period of time after the procedure as prescribed by your doctor. This helps prevent clots while the device seals over the left atrial appendage.
- You need to avoid strenuous activity for the first few weeks to allow the puncture site in your groin–where the catheters were placed to perform the procedure–to fully heal. Your doctor will provide you with guidance on activity restrictions.
- You need to monitor your incision site for any bleeding, swelling, or signs of infection and contact your doctor immediately if you have any concerns.
- You must attend all scheduled follow-up appointments so your cardiologist can assess the results of the procedure using ultrasound or other imaging techniques.
- You should take all medications prescribed to you exactly as directed, such as antiplatelet therapy or anticoagulants (for a period of time after the procedure) if needed.
- You need to call your doctor right away if you experience fever, chills, chest pain, shortness of breath, or other concerning symptoms after the procedure.
- You must inform all your physicians that you have the Watchman device implanted because they will need to avoid prescribing any medications that could interfere with its effectiveness.
- You must carry your Watchman implant card at all times and notify medical staff you have the device in case of emergency.
Am I a Candidate for Watchman Surgery?
Watchman surgery is an effective treatment for individuals with atrial fibrillation (AF) who are at a higher risk of stroke and are seeking an alternative to long-term blood-thinning medications. You may be a candidate for Watchman surgery if you have:
- Non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFib)
Watchman surgery is specifically designed for patients with non-valvular AFib, a type of AFib not related to heart valve problems.
- An increased risk of stroke
If you have AF and are considered at a higher risk of stroke, as determined by your healthcare provider, Watchman surgery can be a suitable option for stroke prevention.
- Difficulty tolerating blood-thinning medications
Some individuals may experience side effects or have contraindications to blood-thinning medications like warfarin. The Watchman procedure provides an alternative for stroke prevention without relying on these medications.
- A desire for a long-term stroke prevention solution
Watchman surgery offers a durable and effective long-term solution for stroke prevention, as the device remains in place permanently.