WATCHMAN™ Heart Implant
When you have atrial fibrillation (AF), you're five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. With AF, the heart doesn’t pump blood through your heart as it should, making it easier for blood cells to stick together and form a clot. If the clot travels out of your heart and blocks a blood vessel somewhere else in your body, it can cut off blood supply to your brain and cause a stroke.
One treatment to prevent a stroke is to take blood thinners. But they have side effects and risks — and some people aren’t able to take them. Blood thinners may cause frequent nosebleeds or cuts that bleed more than usual, and they can also cause life-threatening bleeding after an injury. If you take blood thinners for an extended period, it also raises your risk of internal bleeding.
If you have AF that's not caused by a heart valve problem (nonvalvular AF), WATCHMAN offers an alternative to taking blood thinners. That means you can lower your risk of stroke without worrying about bleeding problems — with a single, minimally invasive procedure.
"This is an exciting new opportunity for patients with atrial fibrillation who are at high risk of bleeding to get off anticoagulants," says Chad Rammohan, MD, interventional cardiologist at El Camino Health.
"We have a highly successful multidisciplinary program that offers patients this state-of-the-art technology. We have the Watchman FLX™, the newest iteration of the device, which offers the best size and safety profile," he continues.
How WATCHMAN Works
When you have AF, you're more likely to form blood clots in an area of your heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). Nearly all the stroke-causing clots in people with nonvalvular AF form in the LAA. WATCHMAN works by closing off the LAA to prevent clots from developing here.
WATCHMAN can reduce your risk of stroke significantly without taking blood thinners. A clinical trial showed 96% of people who received the WATCHMAN Implant were able to stop taking blood thinners within 45 days.
The WATCHMAN Procedure
We use a one-time minimally invasive procedure to implant the device permanently. We make a small cut in your upper leg and insert a flexible tube (catheter) up into your heart. We place the WATCHMAN device, which is the size of a quarter, into the catheter and guide it into the LAA to close it off.
The procedure takes less than an hour, and you’ll receive general anesthesia to keep you comfortable. Typically, you stay overnight in the hospital and go home the next day.
Is WATCHMAN Right for You?
If you have nonvalvular AF and you’ve had bleeding problems in the past or your lifestyle or job put you at risk for bleeding, WATCHMAN may be an option to lower your risk of stroke — for a lifetime.
You may also be a candidate to participate in the Champion AF trial, a research study involving the WATCHMAN device.
"We are excited to offer patients not at high risk for bleeding the opportunity to join in the randomized Champion AF clinical trial. We are one of only two hospitals in Northern California that is participating in this study," says Dr. Rammohan.
Your cardiologist will consider your stroke and bleeding risks to determine if the implant is right for you.