WATCHMAN: A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce AFib Stroke Risk

There’s an alternative to blood thinners. It’s called WATCHMAN and it is now available to patients at Baton Rouge General. The only FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also referred to as non-valvular AFib). Talk to your cardiologist about a WATCHMAN implant or contact us to learn if WATCHMAN is right for you.

How does WATCHMAN work?

Hear from a WATCHMAN Patient

Is WATCHMAN for you?

How Does AFib Increase Stroke Risk?

The average person with atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. That’s because AFib can decrease the heart’s pumping capacity by as much as 30%. Because blood isn’t pumped out of the heart normally, it’s easier for blood cells to stick together and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.

Learn more about atrial fibrillation and stroke risk.

In people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems (the most common type of AFib), more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. Learn more about types of AFib, symptoms and risks, and treatment for Afib.

Reducing AFib Stroke Risk

Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, are an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems.

But some people need an alternative to blood thinners, because they can increase the risk of bleeding. Some bleeding events are minor and easily treated, like a cut taking longer than normal to stop bleeding. In other cases, the bleeding can be life-threatening, such as when bleeding in the brain causes a stroke.

If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, your doctor may consider an alternative to blood thinners, such as the WATCHMAN Implant.

An Alternative to Blood Thinners

WATCHMAN is a permanent implant that offers an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners. It’s about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.

How WATCHMAN works

WATCHMAN effectively reduces the risk of stroke by permanently closing off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping. WATCHMAN can eliminate the bleeding risks and regular blood tests and food-and-drink restrictions that come with blood thinners. In a clinical trial, 9 out of 10 people were able to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure.

How is WATCHMAN Implanted?

WATCHMAN is implanted into your heart in a one-time procedure. To implant WATCHMAN, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. Your doctor then guides WATCHMAN into your heart’s LAA. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

See How WATCHMAN Works

After the Procedure

Following the WATCHMAN procedure, you’ll take blood thinners for 45 days or until your LAA is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor this process by taking pictures of your heart to see when you can stop taking blood thinners.

Your doctor will then prescribe a new blood thinner and aspirin for you to take for six months. After that, you’ll continue to take aspirin on an ongoing basis. A very small number of patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long term.

In a clinical trial:

  • 92% of patients were able to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the procedure
  • 99% of patients were able to stop taking blood thinners within 1 year after the procedure

Hear from a WATCHMAN patient

Is WATCHMAN Right for You?

If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, WATCHMAN may be right for you. But like any medical procedure, WATCHMAN comes with risks, so it isn’t right for everyone. Your cardiologist will weigh your risk of a stroke against your risk of a serious bleeding problem to determine the right treatment for you. Take the WATCHMAN Assessment to see if WATCHMAN is right for you.

Clinical Trials and Registries

The WATCHMAN clinical program resulting in FDA approval consisted of multiple studies: an initial pilot study, two randomized clinical trials (PROTECT AF and PREVAIL), and CAP and CAP 2 registries. Click here to view studies.

** Disclaimer, results may vary from patient to patient.