More than 2.7 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart rhythm disorder that can have serious and potentially fatal consequences. For patients with AFib, the risk of blood clots increases, leading to the possibility of stroke. To reduce the risk of stroke, healthcare professionals sometimes recommend using a Watchman heart device. In this blog, we will explore the functionality of Watchman heart devices, and help you understand how they work.
The Watchman heart device is a small implantable device that is inserted via a catheter into the patient’s heart. The Watchman works by blocking the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small sac in the heart where blood clots can form. Research has shown that over 90% of blood clots in AFib patients form in the LAA, which is why blocking the LAA can be so effective at reducing the risk of stroke.
One of the key benefits of the Watchman device is that it can help patients avoid taking blood-thinning medications long term, which can have side effects such as increased bleeding risk. Instead, after the device is implanted, patients typically take a combination of blood-thinning medications for a short period of time while the device is healing, and then can often transition to taking just one blood-thinning medication or none at all.
The Watchman device is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure that typically lasts around one hour. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin and guided up to the heart. Once it reaches the LAA, the Watchman device is deployed and implanted into place, sealing off the area and blocking blood clots from forming.
After the procedure, patients typically spend one night in the hospital for monitoring and can resume normal activities after a few days of recovery. Patients will still need to monitor for any signs of complications following the procedure, and follow-up visits with their healthcare providers will be crucial to monitor the device’s functionality and assess overall health.
The Watchman heart device is an effective treatment option for patients with AFib who have a high risk of stroke and cannot take long-term blood-thinning medication. By blocking the left atrial appendage, the Watchman significantly reduces the risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke. While the procedure to implant the Watchman is minimally invasive and typically lasts only one hour, patients will still need ongoing monitoring and follow-up with their healthcare providers to ensure the device is functioning properly and to address any potential complications. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AFib, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about the various treatment options available, including Watchman heart devices.