On December 3rd, Electrophysiologist from First Coast Heart and Vascular, Dr. Neil K. Sanghvi, spoke at Flagler Hospital regarding AFib and the Watchman procedure.
WATCHMAN is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem (also known as non-valvuar AFib) who need an alternative to blood thinners.
Non-valvular Afib can mean a lifetime of blood thinners. It can also mean a lifetime of worry about issues like bleeds and falls. More than 100,000 people have left blood thinners behind with WATCHMAN.
How WATCHMAN Works
To understand how WATCHMAN works, it helps to know more about the connection between atrial fibrillation and stroke.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, affects your heart’s ability to pump blood normally. This can cause blood to pool in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.1,2
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.
The WATCHMAN Implant fits right into your LAA. It’s designed to permanently close it off and keep those blood clots from escaping. WATCHMAN is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
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 a clinical trial, 96% of people were able to stop taking blood thinners just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure.3
We are excited to announce that First Coast Heart and Vascular Center physician, Dr. Van Crisco is among the first physicians in Northeast Florida to implant the WATCHMAN device, a novel device for stroke risk reduction for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation who have problems taking blood thinners. This procedure is offered at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, thorough the Memorial Structural Heart Program where Dr. Crisco also implants transcatheter aortic valves for severe symptomatic aortic stenosis.
The WATCHMAN device is indicated for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation who are looking for an alternative to the long-term use of blood thinners, like Coumadin. The WATCHMAN device is an implantable acorn-shaped plug that closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage where over 90% of clots develop that can lead to stroke. The device is implanted through catheter access from the groin, and prevents damaging blood clots from forming. By shutting off the left atrial appendix, the risk of stroke is diminished, and patients may be able to discontinue taking blood thinners like Coumadin. This procedure is FDA approved and typically requires an overnight stay in hospital.
“For patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation, the WATCHMAN device gives patients a cutting-edge stroke-risk reduction option.” Dr. Crisco says, “The WATCHMAN device can potentially relieve patients from the complications and bleeding risk issues of long-term blood thinners.”
Atrial Fibrillation is a very common abnormal heart rhythm where the upper chambers of the heart beat with an irregular rhythm, predisposing patients to increased risk for stroke over time. Atrial fibrillation affects over 5 million Americans. Approximately 15-20% of all strokes occur in patients with atrial fibrillation, and strokes from atrial fibrillation are typically more severe then other causes. Currently, Coumadin and other newer anticoagulant blood thinners are the most common treatments to reduce stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation. Coumadin specifically, as well as some other blood thinners, is not well tolerated by many patients and carries a significant risk of bleeding complications in particular patients. Almost half of atrial fibrillation patients suitable for Coumadin are currently untreated due to tolerance and adherence issues. WATCHMAN gives these patients an innovative alternative to Coumadin for stroke risk reduction.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation and treatment options to reduce your risk of stroke and to learn about the WATCHMAN device, please call 904.423-0010 to make an appointment. Device specific information is also available at Watchman Implant Device.