The Watchman device offers an alternative way to lower the risk of stroke in some people with atrial fibrillation (AFib).
AFib causes blood to pool in the left atrial appendage, which may result in the formation of a blood clot. If the blood clot moves to the brain, it can lead to stroke. Every person’s stroke risk is different, based on their age, gender, and medical conditions.
Many people with AFib take blood thinner medicines like warfarin (or Coumadin®) to lower their stroke risk, but blood thinners are not safe for everyone. The Watchman offers an alternative to warfarin and other blood thinner medications.
The Watchman heart device is a parachute-shaped, implanted device that closes off the left atrial appendage, the area of the heart most commonly linked to clot formation that could lead to stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. Studies have shown that once the device is successfully placed, the Watchman offers as much protection against stroke as blood thinners.
Some people, including those with AFib not caused by heart valve disease, who have an increased risk of stroke and who cannot safely take blood thinners, may be candidates for the Watchman device.
How does the Watchman device work?
During a Watchman procedure, your doctor:
- Accesses a vein in your leg
- Uses special moving x-ray imaging, called fluoroscopy, to guide a catheter containing the device to your heart
- Places the device in your left atrial appendage to close it off using ultrasound and fluoroscopy guidance
The procedure typically takes a little more than an hour to perform. Over time, scar tissue forms around the device, permanently closing off the left atrial appendage.
What are the advantages of the Watchman?
The Watchman device is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure and can provide an alternative for lowering the risk of stroke in some people with AFib who cannot safely take blood thinner medicines.
What are the risks of the Watchman?
The Watchman device is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure that involves anesthesia.
Placement of the device may have serious adverse effects, including risks of:
- Damage to the vein used for insertion of the device
- Major bleeding
- Other life-threatening events or even death
UPMC is one of a select group of hospitals in the United States—and was the first in western Pennsylvania—to treat people with AFib using the FDA-approved Watchman device. Additional Watchman device clinics are located at UPMC Hamot and UPMC Altoona.
Our Watchman experts:
To make an appointment with an atrial fibrillation specialist at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, complete an appointment request form, call 1-855-876-2484, or send an email to CenterforAFib@upmc.edu.
To contact the atrial fibrillation clinic at UPMC Hamot, call 814-877-1342.
For appointments at UPMC Altoona, contact UPMC Altoona Blair Medical Associates Cardiology at 814-946-1655.
Watchman™ is a trademark of Boston Scientific