To understand what the Watchman implant device is and how it works, patients need to understand a significant characteristic of afib. If you have afib, then you may already be aware that you have an increased risk of stroke. This is because irregular and erratic heart rhythms can cause blood to ‘pool’ in a small portion of the heart known as the left atrial appendage or LAA. The LAA is a small pocket-like appendage on the left atrial portion of the heart. When blood pools in this ‘pocket’ it may clot, then break free, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke.
Because of this undesirable clotting in the heart, patients with afib are often treated with blood thinners such as Warfarin, Pradaxa, and others to reduce the chance that blood forms clots. Preventing clots from forming in the first place significantly reduces the risk of stroke. While these drugs do a good job of reducing the opportunity for blood to clot, in some patients, there are undesirable side effects such as bleeding, dizziness, or muscle weakness.
For patients with non-heart valve-related afib, the Watchman implant device may be an excellent alternative. Only a medical professional such as Houston’s top cardiologist, Dr. Shanti Bansal at the Arrhythmia Center of America, can determine whether a specific patient is a candidate for the Watchman device. Nevertheless, it is important for afib patients to understand what treatment options may be available. This improves communication and understanding when discussing afib and stroke risk with your doctor.
The Watchman device is a small umbrella-shaped implant that is surgically inserted into the opening of the left atrial appendage. The device serves to block the appendage opening and eliminate the pooling of blood. As time passes, the heart grows tissue over the device, effectively causing a complete blockage of the appendage. This permanently closes off the pocket and eliminates the formation of clots in this area.
To implant the device, the surgeon makes a small cut in the thigh area and inserts a long tube through a primary artery into the heart. The Watchman, carried on the tip of the tube, is carefully and permanently positioned in the LAA pocket. The device lodges against the walls of the LAA which holds it in place and blocks the opening of the appendage. Patients undergoing this procedure generally remain in the hospital overnight and, after a brief recovery period, can continue all activities they previously enjoyed.
If you have afib or suspect you may have afib set an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Shanti Bansal at Arrhythmia Center of America. Treatment of afib is essential, not only to control the condition itself but also to reduce the risk of strokes. The Watchman device may be a treatment option for you, but only a complete exam by a doctor can make that determination. If you are a candidate for the Watchman, Dr. Bansal will discuss the details of the procedure as well as its pros and cons. Developing the most appropriate and complete afib management plan is essential to controlling irregular heart rhythms, heart rates, and stroke risks.
Call the professionals at Arrhythmia Center of America today to schedule a consultation. Our staff will be glad to assist you, set your appointment, and answer all your questions. Call today, 832-478-5067.