Closing the Left Atrial Appendage with the Watchman Implant
UW Health Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Care doctors use the Watchman™ implant device to close a part of the left chamber of the heart for patients with atrial fibrillation. Using the implant may decrease the risk of stroke and blood clots for patients with atrial fibrillation, and and is an alternative for some patients who are not good candidates for long-term blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin).
How the Watchman™ Implant Works
Blood clots increase the risk for stroke and are most often found in the left atrial appendage, which is a small pouch in the heart. The Watchman implant acts as a barrier to prevent left atrial appendage blood clots from entering the bloodstream.
Doctors place the implant by making an incision in the groin and guiding it with a catheter to the left atrium of the heart. Once there, the implant is positioned and opened like a small umbrella, blocking off the left atrial appendage. Any blood clots that form there will not be able to enter the bloodstream, where they could cause a stroke.
How the Watchman™ Implant Compares to Blood Thinners
Some patients should not take blood thinners because of the risk. The WatchmanTM implant may be an alternative for people who cannot take blood thinners over the long term. In studies of the WatchmanTM implant in patients with atrial fibrillation, the safety and effectiveness of the implant has been compared to taking blood thinners and appears to be an acceptable alternative in the right patient.
What the Watchman™ Implant Doesn't Do
- Stroke can be caused by factors other than blood clots, including high blood pressure and narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain. The WatchmanTM implant will not prevent these other potential causes of stroke.
- Like blood thinners, the WatchmanTM implant does not cure or reduce the frequency of atrial fibrillation episodes.
How do I know if the Watchman™ implant is right for me?
Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with blood thinners compared to implanting the WatchmanTM device.