The WATCHMAN Device: An Alternate Treatment to Blood Thinners
Written by Robert Percell, MD
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a chaotic rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart called the atria and is the most common heart rhythm disorder. More than 2.7 million people in the United States have AFib.
AFib and Stroke
The average person with AFib is five times more likely to suffer a devastating stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. More than 90% of stroke-causing clots originating from the heart are formed in a small structure called the left atrial appendage. A stroke results when a blood clot escapes from the left atrial appendage and travels to the brain cutting off the blood supply.
Anticoagulation (blood thinners) is the primary treatment to prevent strokes. Examples of blood thinners include:
- Traditional warfarin
- Novel agents such as: Xarelto, Eliquis, Pradaxa and Savasa
However, many patients cannot tolerate blood thinners due to the following:
- History of major bleeding while taking anticoagulation therapy
- Patient’s prior experience with oculoauriculovertebral dysplasia (OAC):
- Inability to maintain stable international normalized ratio (INR)
- Inability to comply with regular INR monitoring and unavailability of an approved alternative OAC
- Medical condition, occupation or lifestyle placing patient at high risk of major bleeding secondary to trauma
The WATCHMAN Device
A recent alternative device to oral anticoagulation therapy in patients with non-valvular AFib is the WATCHMAN device. It is designed to reduce the risk of thromboembolism (clots and stroke) by closing off the left atrial appendage (LAA). Over time, patients may be able to stop taking oral anticoagulants.
The WATCHMAN device is implanted through the femoral veins and does not require major surgery. Patients are able to return home the day following the procedure.
Bryan Heart is dedicated to proven leading edge technology, including the WATCHMAN device, to provide the best possible outcome for our patients. We were the first in Nebraska to implant this device and now have three cardiologists performing this procedure.
If you have a patient with symptoms of AFib or have questions about the WATCHMAN device, please call 402-483-3333.