WATCHMAN Procedure for AFib

Watchman is a permanent treatment option for reducing stroke in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. It is a one-time procedure that permanently closes off the left atrial appendage (LAA). This minimally-invasive procedure typically takes one hour or less to implant. Patients usually stay in the hospital overnight and return home the next day.

 

One-time Implant that can Help Reduce AFib Stroke Risk

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia. An arrhythmia occurs when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or irregularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, atrial fibrillation increases a person's risk for stroke causing about one in seven stroke cases. Atrial fibrillation causes blood to pool in your heart, which increases your risk of forming clots.

An atrial fibrillation-induced stroke occurs when one blood clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain. Strokes caused by complications of this condition tend to be more severe than strokes with other underlying causes.

An Alternative to Blood Thinners

Blood thinners or anticoagulants can be an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. However, there is an increased risk of bleeding with the long-term use of blood thinners, which can be life-threatening. Blood-thinning medications can lead to lifestyle limitations like:

  • Negative interactions with food and drugs
  • Side effects that can be difficult to tolerate
  • Ongoing monitoring of medication

WATCHMAN is an FDA-approved implant about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants. The WATCHMAN implant permanently closes off your left atrial appendage to reduce the risk of stroke. The positive results of the WATCHMAN implant may include:

  • Stroke risk reduction
  • Long-term anticoagulation therapy cessation
  • Better quality of life

What Is the WATCHMAN Procedure?

Similar to a stent procedure, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, then guides the Implant through the tube into the left atrial appendage. The procedure requires general anesthesia and typically takes less than an hour. Most patients who undergo the WATCHMAN procedure stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

Your doctor may recommend blood-thinning medications following the procedure for up to 45 days or until your left atrial appendage is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will form a barrier over the implant to protect against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor this process by taking images of your heart to check when you can stop taking your blood thinners.

You may need to take medications, including aspirin, for six months or longer. A small number of patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long-term.

Watch this video to know more about the WATCHMAN implant minimally invasive procedure.

Placement

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Implant

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Who Qualifies for the WATCHMAN Device?

You may qualify for the WATCHMAN implant if you meet the following criteria:

  1. Have an increased risk for stroke and be recommended for anticoagulation
  2. Be suitable for short-term oral anticoagulation
  3. Have an appropriate reason to seek a non-pharmacologic alternative to oral anti-coagulants

Like any medical procedure, WATCHMAN comes with risks. Consult with your cardiologist first to discuss your options. Do not make changes to your AFib treatment plan unless instructed by your cardiologist.

Talk with a Watchman Coordinator

If you have questions about the Watchman procedure or process, please contact our WATCHMAN Coordinator at 843-689-8309 or HHHWatchman@tenethealth.com.

Insurance Accepted

Making decisions about healthcare can be challenging, so we provide information you need upfront, including financial obligations. Our dedicated staff is ready to address your questions and help you make financial arrangements so you can get the care you need at Hilton Head Regional Healthcare. We accept various insurance plans and offer options for payment plan flexibility. For questions about your coverage, contact your insurance provider directly or click on this link for your billing and insurance questions.

Find a Cardiovascular Doctor in the Lowcountry

Atrial fibrillation may come and go, but for some people, it can be an ongoing heart problem that lasts for years. The experienced cardiac care team at Hilton Head Regional Healthcare is here to help with compassionate service combined with advanced technology and procedures. To learn about other heart care treatments, please visit our cardio services page here or call 833-383-3744 to request a referral.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
American Heart Association

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