Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition in which electrical impulses in the top chambers of the heart are extremely rapid and chaotic, creating an irregular heartbeat.
The irregular heartbeat causes stagnation of blood in the left atrium, one of the chambers of the heart. A small sac in the left atrium called left atrial appendage harbors most of the clots from AFib. Ninety percent of AFib strokes are caused by clots formed in left atrial appendage that travel to the brain.
People with AFib are commonly prescribed lifelong use of blood thinners to prevent strokes. However, not everyone is able to tolerate blood thinners required for stroke prevention. The WATCHMAN™ device protects against stroke by blocking off the left atrial appendage, thus preventing large clot formation in the left atrium and providing an alternative to blood thinners. WATCHMAN™ is a one-time procedure with a proven safety record.
“Patients on blood thinners have to change their lifestyle to prevent excessive bleeding. Even with a hobby like gardening, they must be careful because a small cut can become troublesome,” says Kettering Health Network interventional cardiologist Raja Nazir, MD. “For patients who have complications with blood thinners, the WATCHMAN™ is a life-changing device.”
The elective, minimally invasive procedure only takes about an hour and is implanted through a small puncture in the groin under general anesthesia. Patients remain in the hospital for 23 hours for observation. Upon returning home, patients are instructed to avoid heavy lifting for three days, after which they can resume their normal activities. After 45 days, there is a follow-up with their doctor to ensure the WATCHMAN™ is positioned properly. Typically, after this appointment, prescribed blood thinners can be stopped and only daily aspirin is needed.
“After having the WATCHMAN™ implanted, the patient’s risk of stroke is the same or lower than those who take blood thinners,” said Dr. Nazir. “Additionally, patients with the WATCHMAN™ have a lower risk of excessive bleeding; fewer prescription costs; and lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which is often fatal, compared to patients on blood thinners.”
Dr. Nazir and the Kettering Health Network Heart & Vascular team have been implanting the WATCHMAN™ device since 2016 and implanted their 100th WATCHMAN™ device in 2019.
Schedule an appointment with your cardiologist to determine if you are a candidate for the WATCHMAN™ device.