The WATCHMAN Implant is an alternative to blood thinners, designed to keep these harmful blood clots from escaping the left atrial appendage (LAA). WATCHMAN is a one-time implant that doesn’t have to be replaced and can’t be seen outside the body. About the size of a quarter, it’s made from very light and compact materials commonly used in medical implants.
Although most clots that come from the heart in people with AFib develop in the LAA, stroke can also be caused by other factors, including high blood pressure and the narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain. The WATCHMAN Implant will not prevent these other causes of stroke.
Like blood thinners, WATCHMAN does not cure atrial fibrillation. But it does offer people with non-valvular AFib a new and potentially life-changing alternative to taking daily blood thinners. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your specific situation so you can find the right treatment option to reduce your stroke risk.
The WATCHMAN Implant doesn’t require open-heart surgery and is typically performed under general anesthesia. Like in a stent procedure, your doctor will make a small cut in your upper leg, insert a flexible tube (catheter) into a vein, and guide WATCHMAN into your heart.
Then, your doctor will cross from the right to the left side of your heart. Once WATCHMAN is in place, he or she will release the implant to permanently seal off your LAA. Over time, your heart tissue will grow over the implant.
You will need to keep taking blood thinners to help reduce your stroke risk until enough heart tissue grows to permanently close off the LAA from the rest of your heart. Your doctor will take pictures of your heart using a TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram) to determine when the implant has properly closed off your LAA and if you can stop taking blood thinners.
Typically, patients stay in the hospital overnight and recovery takes about 24 hours. In most cases, patients can stop taking blood thinners 45 days after the procedure.