Heart & Vascular Program : WATCHMAN

WATCHMAN at Community Memorial Hospital: A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce AFib Stroke Risk

Meet Your WATCHMAN Team

Dr. Ishu Rao, M.D. Headshot
Dr. Ishu Rao, M.D. View Profile
Dr. Jonathan Dukes, M.D. Headshot
Dr. Jonathan
Dukes, M.D.
View Profile

How Does AFib Increase Stroke Risk?

The average person with atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat.1 That’s because AFib can decrease the heart’s pumping capacity by as much as 30%.2 Because blood isn’t pumped out of the heart normally, it’s easier for blood cells to stick together and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA).2, 3 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, 4

In people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems (the most common type of AFib), more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA.3

Reducing AFib Stroke Risk

Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, are an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems.5 Common blood thinners include warfarin (also known as Coumadin®), Eliquis®, Pradaxa®, Xarelto® and Savaysa®.

But some people need an alternative to blood thinners, because they can increase the risk of bleeding.5 Some bleeding events are minor and easily treated, like a cut taking longer than normal to stop bleeding. In other cases, the bleeding can be life-threatening, such as when bleeding in the brain causes a stroke.

If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, your doctor may consider an alternative to blood thinners, such as the WATCHMAN Implant.

An Alternative to Blood Thinners

WATCHMAN is a permanent implant that offers an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners. It’s about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.

Cross-section of the heart showing internals

More than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA.

A WATCHMAN implant

The WATCHMAN implant is about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many medical implants.


“The WATCHMAN device has proven to be extraordinarily helpful in the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF),” said Dr. Ishu Rao, Director of Electrophysiology Services at Community Memorial Hospital. “With this minimally invasive procedure, we can eliminate the need for blood thinners in patients with AF who have high risk features for stroke. The CMH program has been growing since its inception in August 2017, and patients like Joanne have already experienced the benefits of discontinuation of their blood thinners. The WATCHMAN has become a key tool in our management of patients with atrial fibrillation.”

How WATCHMAN Works

WATCHMAN effectively reduces the risk of stroke by permanently closing off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping. WATCHMAN can eliminate the bleeding risks and regular blood tests and food-and-drink restrictions that come with warfarin. In a clinical trial, 9 out of 10 people were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after the WATCHMAN procedure.6

How is WATCHMAN Implanted?

WATCHMAN is implanted into your heart in a one-time procedure. To implant WATCHMAN, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. Your doctor then guides WATCHMAN into your heart’s LAA. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.


Hear from a WATCHMAN Patient

Joanne’s Story

Meet Joanne Willett, a 77-year-old ranch owner from Santa Paula, California, whose active, independent lifestyle was compromised by heart problems due to non-valvular atrial fibrillation (A-Fib). Like most other patients with this condition, Joanne was at a high-risk for stroke, and was placed on the standard treatment protocol of warfarin blood thinner therapy to prevent blood clots from forming in her left atrial appendage.

But in Joanne’s words, “blood thinners and working on a ranch just don’t mix!” Bleeding complications eventually started to negatively impact Joanne’s life. Day to day tasks became increasingly challenging to accomplish safely, and she began to feel uneasy doing the things she loves, like riding her horses through the hills on her ranch.

After hearing Joanne’s concerns, a physician at Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Ventura recommended that she make an appointment with Dr. Ishu Rao, Director of Electrophysiology Services at CMH, to discuss a new and innovative procedure known as the WATCHMAN. During her consultation with Dr. Rao, Joanne’s path back to independence became clear. Watch the video to hear the rest of Joanne’s story!

Marjorie’s Story

Marjorie had a hemorrhagic stroke while taking blood thinners and needed an alternative treatment to reduce her AFib stroke risk. See how WATCHMAN gave her new hope.

Billy Stacy’s Story

When Billy became anemic and needed three units of blood transfused, it was time to explore an alternative to blood thinners for reducing his AFib stroke risk. See how the WATCHMAN Implant helped this former pro football player stay active in his community.

Fermin’s Story – Spanish

(español)

Getting WATCHMAN

The first step to finding out if you’re a candidate for WATCHMAN is making an appointment with a cardiologist to discuss your options.

Download Doctor Discussion Guide

WATCHMAN is for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem who need an alternative to warfarin. This website is intended to provide patients and caregivers with some information about the WATCHMAN Implant. It may help prepare you for talking to your doctor about your options for reducing stroke risk.

Important Safety Information
The WATCHMAN Device is a permanent implant designed to close the left atrial appendage in the heart in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke.

With all medical procedures there are risks associated with the implant procedure and the use of the device. The risks include but are not limited to accidental heart puncture, air embolism, allergic reaction, anemia, anesthesia risks, arrhythmias, AV (Arteriovenous) fistula, bleeding or throat pain from the TEE (Trans Esophageal Echo) probe, blood clot or air bubbles in the lungs or other organs, bruising at the catheter insertion site, clot formation on the WATCHMAN™ Closure Device, cranial bleed, excessive bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, groin puncture bleed, hypotension, infection/pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema, pulmonary vein obstruction, renal failure, stroke, thrombosis and transient ischemic attack. In rare cases death can occur.

Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with the implantation of the WATCHMAN Device.

Sources

  1. National Stroke Association. Making the Afib-Stroke Connection. https://www.stroke.org/sites/default/files/resources/Afib-Connection%20for%20hcp.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed September 1, 2016.
  2. Harvard Health Publications. Atrial fibrillation. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/atrial-fibrillation-common-serious-treatable. Harvard University Medical School. Published November 2011. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  3. Blackshear JL, Odell JA. Appendage obliteration to reduce stroke in cardiac surgical patients with atrial fibrillation. Ann Thorac Surg.1996;61:755-759.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Atrial fibrillation (Afib). http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/arrhythmia/atrial-fibrillation-afib. Published May 2015. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  5. National Stroke Association. Making the Afib-Stroke Connection. https://www.stroke.org/sites/default/files/resources/Afib-Connection%20for%20hcp.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed September 1, 2016.
  6. Holmes DR Jr, Kar S, Price MJ, et al. Prospective randomized evaluation of the Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure device in patients with atrial fibrillation versus long-term warfarin therapy: the PREVAIL trial. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(1):1-12.