For people who have atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, blood clots that cause strokes are a danger. The WATCHMAN™ device permanently seals off the left atrial appendage, a section of the heart that is the site of almost all stroke-causing blood clots in people who have A-fib.
It’s the only FDA-approved device of its kind designed to prevent blood clots that form in the left atrial area from entering the bloodstream and causing strokes.
Our heart rhythm experts (electrophysiologists) and cardiologists at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute were the first in Maryland to successfully use the WATCHMAN™ device to treat patients with atrial fibrillation (A-fib).
Facts at a glance: The WATCHMAN™
Here’s a look at important facts about the WATCHMAN™:
- The device has a mesh membrane that is spring-loaded to expand to about the size of a quarter once a doctor places it in the left atrial area.
- This meshing acts as a filter: It allows blood to pass through while stopping clots.
- The WATCHMAN™ is permanent. Heart tissue eventually grows over the device.
- The device has no batteries or wires.
- Most patients who get the WATCHMAN™ can stop taking blood-thinning medications within 45 days.
When will your doctor recommend the WATCHMAN™?
People who have A-fib often must take blood-thinning medication to prevent clots and strokes from happening. If you cannot take blood thinners due to side effects or bleeding problems, your doctor may recommend the WATCHMAN™ device.
Why choose MedStar for the WATCHMAN™?
Our heart specialists spent eight years testing the WATCHMAN™ device in clinical trials before it received FDA approval. While the procedure is new to others, it’s not new to us. Our doctors have more experience with the WATCHMAN™ device than anyone else in the Washington metropolitan region.
We’re experts at performing medical procedures within the delicate structure of the left atrium. We’ve been performing complex ablation procedures within this fragile heart chamber for decades. Our doctors have the expertise and confidence you want when undergoing a heart procedure.
What is the WATCHMAN™?
The WATCHMAN™ is a self-expanding device that seals off the left atrial appendage, which is located at the top left chamber of your heart. In a normally functioning heart, blood fills and then leaves the left atrial area with each heartbeat.
If you have an arrhythmia like A-fib, blood can remain in this area. This increases your risk for blood clots and strokes. The WATCHMAN™ creates a permanent barrier that prevents blood clots that may form in the left atrial area from entering the bloodstream and causing a stroke.
The WATCHMAN™ procedure: Steps
Our team of cardiologists and electrophysiologists implant the WATCHMAN™ device using a nonsurgical procedure performed in our specialized electrophysiology (EP) or cardiac catheterization labs. EP labs feature special equipment that allows our doctors to test the electrical activity of your heart.
The nonsurgical procedure lasts about an hour and involves several steps:
- You will receive anesthesia.
- Your doctor inserts a catheter (plastic tube) into a vein in your groin area.
- Your doctor guides the WATCHMAN™ device through the catheter to the opening of your left atrial area.
- Once the device is in place, it expands to create a mesh barrier of the left atrial area.
- You will most likely stay overnight in the hospital following the procedure.
- You should be able to discontinue the use of blood thinners after 45 days.
- The WATCHMAN™ is intended to be left in place permanently. Heart tissue eventually grows over the device.