What is WATCHMAN?
The WATCHMAN is a one-time implantation procedure that reduces the risk of stroked originating in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The implant occludes the left atrial appendage, which is the source of blood clots from atrial fibrillation. This implant eliminates the need for a blood thinners for those at a high risk of stroke from AFib.
The WATCHMAN procedure is FDA approved and proven to safely and effectively reduce stroke risk in patients.
Candidates for WATCHMAN Implant
Candidates for the WATCHMAN procedure are those that are at a higher risk of stroke but have trouble with anticoagulation. Appropriate candidates have one or more of the following:
- A history of major bleeding when taking therapeutic anticoagulation therapy
- Inability to maintain a stable therapeutic International Normalized Ratio (INR) and unavailability of an approved alternative anticoagulation agent.
- A medical condition, occupation, or lifestyle that puts the patient at high risk of major bleeding due to trauma.
Prior to the procedure, patients should not consume any food or drinks after midnight the night before implantation. Blood thinners are also held before the procedure.
This procedure is performed under general anesthesia using a standard transseptal technique. Dr. Smith performs a transesophageal echocardiagram (TEE) to measure the left atrial appendage to see what size implant needs to be used.
After being prepped, the WATCHMAN device is inserted in an access sheath, and slowly advanced under fluoroscopic guidance. Dr. Smith then deploys the WATCHMAN into the LAA. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke is reduced and patients may be able to stop taking (anticoagulants) blood thinners over time.
The average time of the procedure is one hour. Patients typically stay in the hospital for 24 hours.
What to expect after WATCHMAN implantation
After having the WATCHMAN procedure, patients should sustain to light activity for two days. This recovery is similar to when having an angiogram or left heart catheterization. After just 45 days after implantation, “92% of patients were able to stop taking warfarin. By one year, the number increased to over 99%.”