An estimated five million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as AFib. AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). AFib is when the upper chamber of your heart beats faster than the bottom chamber. People with AFib have a five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms.
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 because of the risk of bleeding, due to a history of bleeding, other conditions or lifestyle, some people need an alternative to blood thinners.
At the TriHealth Heart & Vascular Institute, we are proud to offer WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) Closure Implant to our AFib patients. WATCHMAN™ is a first-of-its-kind, proven alternative to lifelong use of blood thinners for stroke risk reduction in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.
The device, which is the only FDA-approved implant proven to reduce stroke risk in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem, has been implanted in more than 50,000 patients worldwide.
Science always looks for ways to make effective treatments even better. WATCHMAN™ is no exception. The WATCHMAN™ FLX design is an advancement that enables the implant to fit a greater number of patients, giving more people than ever a safe, effective alternative to blood thinners should they need one. In September 2020, TriHealth was the first in the area to implant the WATCHMAN™ FLX device.
In people with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA.1 That’s why closing off this part of the heart is an effective way to reduce stroke risk.
WATCHMAN™ FLX is a permanent implant that is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants. It effectively reduces the risk of stroke by permanently closing off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping.
WATCHMAN™ FLX is implanted into the heart in a one-time procedure during which a physician makes a small cut in the upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. The physician then guides the implant into the heart’s LAA. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients are able to go home the same day as the procedure or stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
Following the WATCHMAN™ procedure, patients continue blood thinner treatment for 45 days or until the LAA is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots.
A physician will monitor this process by taking pictures of the heart to determine when to stop the use of blood thinners. In a clinical trial, 96% of people were able to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure.2