UCI Health Cardiology Services offers left atrial appendage closure with the Watchman device to treat patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat also known as AFib or AF.
More than 6 million Americans suffer from AFib, which can lead to blood clots, heart failure, stroke and other complications. With an aging population, that number is expected to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Watchman is one of several leading-edge devices we offer as Orange County’s most advanced cardiovascular disease services program. Others include Mitraclip, ECMO and TAVR.
What is Watchman?
Watchman is a one-time implant about the size of a quarter. It sits inside the heart’s left atrial appendage (LAA), where blood clots often occur.
Watchman creates a barrier to prevent blood clots from escaping into the bloodstream and causing a stroke or other adverse conditions.
Who is Watchman for?
Watchman is used for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia.
Patients with AFib are often prescribed blood thinners or anticoagulants to minimize blood clots. However, some patients cannot tolerate blood thinners, which are often prescribed for lifelong use. The Watchman implant is a viable alternative for these patients.
What is atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF)?
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s electrical signals fire rapidly, causing the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to quiver or shake. Blood does not move properly through its four chambers, causing blood to pool in a small pouch on top of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA), where blood clots are often formed.
When a blood clot escapes the pouch and travels in the blood stream to another part of the body, the clot can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.
The average person with AFib or AF is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat.
How is Watchman implanted?
Under general anesthesia, a narrow tube is inserted through an opening in the groin, similar to a stent procedure. The coin-sized Watchman implant is guided into the heart’s LAA through the tube. The procedure takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and are able to leave the next day.
How does Watchman work?
The Watchman implant closes off the left atrial appendage (LAA). After about 45 days, heart tissue grows over the implant to form a barrier to prevent blood clots from escaping into the blood stream.
What are the benefits of Watchman?
- Minimally invasive
- Significant reduction in Afib-related strokes
- Can eliminate bleeding risks, regular blood tests as well as food and drink restrictions that often come with taking blood-thinning medications
- Quick recovery time, usually with only an overnight hospital stay