Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is one of the most common heart rhythm disorders, affecting millions of people worldwide. AFib increases the risk of stroke and blood clots, which can lead to serious complications or even death. To reduce this risk, doctors usually prescribe blood thinning medications like Warfarin or Coumadin. However, these drugs come with their own set of downsides, including the risk of bleeding and interactions with other drugs. Fortunately, there is a safer and more effective alternative to blood thinners for some patients – the Watchman procedure.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the Watchman procedure – what it is, how it works, its benefits and risks, and who is a good candidate for this procedure.
What is the Watchman Procedure?
The Watchman procedure is a minimally invasive surgery that uses a device to block the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA), a small pouch in the heart where blood clots can form and embolize to the brain, causing a stroke. The device is a small, umbrella-shaped plug made of polyester and nitinol that is inserted into the LAA through a catheter, under general anesthesia. Once in place, the Watchman device seals off the LAA, preventing blood clots from entering, and reducing the risk of stroke.
How Does the Watchman Procedure Work?
The Watchman procedure works by reducing the risk of stroke in patients with AFib who are at high risk for bleeding or cannot tolerate blood thinners. This procedure helps to close off the LAA, which is the source of more than 90% of blood clots in patients with AFib. The Watchman device itself is made of materials that are compatible with the human body, and its unique design enables it to conform to the different shapes and sizes of the heart.
Benefits and Risks of the Watchman Procedure:
The Watchman procedure offers many benefits, including reducing the risk of stroke, eliminating the need for long-term blood thinners, and improving the quality of life for patients with AFib. Moreover, studies have shown that the Watchman procedure is as effective as blood thinners in preventing stroke, with a low rate of complications and a short recovery time.
However, like any medical procedure, the Watchman procedure also has its risks. The most common risks are bleeding, infection, and complications related to anesthesia. It is essential to talk to your doctor about your specific risks and benefits of the procedure before making any decisions.
Who is a Good Candidate for the Watchman Procedure?
The Watchman procedure is suitable for patients with AFib who are at a high risk for strokes and bleeding or cannot tolerate long-term blood thinners. Your doctor will evaluate your medical history, current medications, and overall health to determine if you are a good candidate for the Watchman procedure.
In general, the Watchman procedure is recommended for patients who are at a high risk of AFib-related stroke and who have a history of bleeding or are on a medication that increases bleeding risk.
In conclusion, the Watchman procedure is a minimally invasive and safe alternative to blood thinners for some AFib patients at high risk for stroke. While it comes with its risks, the benefits of this procedure are enormous, including reducing the risk of stroke, eliminating the need for long-term blood thinners, and improving the quality of life for patients with AFib. If you have AFib and are at risk of blood clots or have a high risk of bleeding, talk to your doctor about whether the Watchman procedure is right for you.