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A promising new approach to reducing stroke risk

Last Modified: 9/25/2019

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat too fast and in a chaotic rhythm. It can present as shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, racing heart, fluttering or palpitations, or no symptoms at all.

Approximately 1 in 3 people with AFib will have a stroke in their lifetime, and more than 90 percent of stroke-causing clots come from the heart, originating in the left atrial appendage (LAA). Because of this risk, an important part of managing the condition is anti-clotting medicines and blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin®). While these blood thinners help prevent clots by thinning the blood, they can also increase the risk of bleeding.

A new approach

The WATCHMAN™ implant is the only FDA-approved implant proven to safely and effectively lower stroke risk in patients with AFib not caused by heart valve problems. The permanent implant is designed to close off the LAA so blood clots can’t form there and escape to cause a stroke. The device is a one-time procedure that may reduce stroke risk for a lifetime. While WATCHMAN is as effective at reducing the risk of stroke as warfarin, the Implant also reduces the long-term risk of bleeding. In a clinical trial, 9 out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after getting Watchman®

Placing the WATCHMAN

The WATCHMAN implant doesn’t require open heart surgery and it cannot be seen outside the body. The procedure is typically done under general anesthesia and typically takes less than an hour. People commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

WATCHMAN may be right for you if:

  • You have AFib not caused by heart valve problems
  • You’ve experienced major bleeding while taking blood thinners
  • You have a lifestyle, job or health condition that puts you at risk for major bleeding

WATCHMAN is not a good fit for those who:

  • Cannot take warfarin (Coumadin®), aspirin or clopidagrel (Plavix®)
  • Should not or cannot undergo heart catheterization procedures
  • Have an allergy or sensitivity to nitinol (nickel and titanium)
  • Have a left atrial appendage that does not fit the WATCHMAN Implant
  • Are taking blood thinners for a condition other than AFib
A second chance

James Nash had quadruple bypass surgery in 2005, congestive heart failure in 2009, stent placement 2016 and had been on blood thinners since 2005.

“I was living with constant worry of unintentional bruising or bleeding, knowing I couldn’t receive a kidney transplant because of blood thinner restrictions,” he said.

When his physicians suggested WATCHMAN, James felt confident it was the right choice for him. “It was painless and effortless,” he recalled. “The whole thing couldn’t have been easier.”

James takes every opportunity to share his experience with others going through a similar journey. “Now, not only am I eligible for a transplant on three lists, I am no longer restricted by the limitations of being on a blood thinner, where I would have had to wait five days before being cleared for surgery. My future is much brighter. WATCHMAN has opened the door for my transplant opportunities and has eliminated the expense of blood thinners. It’s been fantastic for me. I whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone considering it.”


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