Did you know that, on average, people with AFib are five times more likely to experience a stroke than someone without AFib? This is due to the irregular heartbeat associated with fibrillation. When the heart can’t pump out blood as efficiently, blood can pool in the upper chambers and form clots, which have the potential to travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Therefore, most people with AFib take some form of blood thinner to prevent clotting, such as warfarin or heparin.
What are the side effects of blood thinners?
Clotting is sometimes beneficial to a person’s health. For example, if a person experiences a small scrape, they may bleed for a bit, but the blood quickly clots and stops further blood loss. When a blood thinner prevents coagulation, minor injuries and bruises may cause significant blood loss or internal bleeding and become an emergency.
What is the WATCHMAN Procedure?
The WATCHMAN procedure is a minimally invasive surgery that typically takes about one hour and is suitable for people with non-valvular AFib. It begins with a surgeon making a small incision in the leg, threading a tube up into the heart where the tool places the WATCHMAN implant into the left atrial appendage (LAA). The surgeon then removes the tube and closes the incision. The patient then spends one night in the hospital and will likely be able to stop taking blood thinners after 45 days.
How does the WATCHMAN Procedure work as an alternative to blood thinners?
To understand how the WATCHMAN implant can eliminate the need for blood thinners, we must first understand how the device works. The implant is circular and about the size of a quarter. When placed in the LAA, it stops blood from pooling in this part of the heart, thereby preventing clotting. As the body reacts to this foreign body in the heart, it grows tissue over it, effectively blocking off the LAA and permanently preventing blood from getting stuck there. Since these clots can’t form in the closed-off LAA, patients won’t need blood thinners to avoid these coagulations. Additionally, the risk of stroke may return to that of someone with a regular heartbeat.
This Is WATCHMAN from Boston Scientific on Vimeo.
The WATCHMAN Procedure, close to home
St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital is the first in the Brazos Valley to offer the innovative WATCHMAN Procedure. Our team of cardiologists and electrophysiologists is dedicated to improving patient outcomes and experiences through proven, safe methods, including this trusted device. They have been treating atrial fibrillation for over 20 years in the Brazos Valley and have treated more patients than any other hospital in the region.
To round out the patient experience, our patient navigator serves as a guide, resource, and advocate during each treatment journey. The navigator is there for the patient throughout the entirety of their medical care, from the point of entry for their AFib treatment to post-procedure care if needed.
Ready to take control of your non-valvular atrial fibrillation? Request an appointment to get started.