Meet the Watchman Device: A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce AFib Stroke Risk
Kootenai Health hits 300 Watchman Cases!
The Watchman is a left atrial appendage closure device implanted to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF).
Who is a candidate?
Patients must have an increased risk for stroke with an appropriate reason to seek an alternative to blood thinners. Watchman is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvuar AFib) who need an alternative to blood thinners. It’s about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
The Watchman implant may be right for people who:
- Have atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvular AFib)
- Have been recommended for blood-thinning medicines by their doctor
- Can take short term blood thinners but need an alternative
People may need an alternative to warfarin for any one of these reasons:
- Have had major bleeding while taking blood thinners
- Have a lifestyle, occupation, or condition that puts them at risk for major bleeding
- Have difficulties taking their blood thinner as prescribed (staying in INR range, following dietary restrictions, missing doses, or inability to afford the prescription)
Patients who may qualify for the Watchman are first scheduled for a special consultation with one of our cardiologists to discuss specific risks and benefits. The cardiologist will also go over the details of the procedure. Following the initial consultation, patients meet with an implanter – our team of specialists will work with all your physicians to ensure we have the safest treatment plan before scheduling the procedure.
Watchman is implanted into your heart in a minimally invasive, one-time procedure. To implant Watchman, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. Your doctor then guides Watchman into your heart’s left atrial appendage. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
Following the Procedure
Following the Watchman procedure, your doctor will prescribe you blood-thinning medication for 45 days or until your left atrial appendage is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor this process by taking pictures of your heart to see when you can stop taking your blood thinners.
Your doctor will then prescribe a medicine called clopidogrel (also known as Plavix®) and aspirin for you to take for six months. After that, you’ll continue to take aspirin on an ongoing basis. A very small number of patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long term.
- Most patients stay one night at the hospital
- One week of light duties while the groin incision site heals
Medications Following the Procedure
- NOAC/Warfarin and ASA 81mg for 45 days
- Plavix and ASA 325mg until the six-month mark
- A daily Asprin (325mg) regimen
If you have any questions, please call 208.416.9153 to speak directly with Jenny, Structural Heart Program Coordinator.