If you have atrial fibrillation that’s not caused by a heart valve problem and you want an alternative to taking blood thinners, the WATCHMAN™ may be the solution you need. Akash Makkar, MD, and Mohamad Abdelrahman, MD, at Arizona Heart Arrhythmia Associates have extensive experience inserting the WATCHMAN, a permanent device that prevents strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation. To learn if you’re a good candidate, schedule an appointment online or call one of the offices in Phoenix, Avondale, Tempe, Chandler, Sun City, Dewey, or Prescott Valley, Arizona, today.
The WATCHMAN is a medical device that prevents strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation. The device is implanted in an area of your heart called the left atrial appendage.
The left atrial appendage is where more than 90% of blood clots form when you have atrial fibrillation. The WATCHMAN stops these clots from leaving your heart so they can’t cause a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that occurs when the heart’s two upper chambers — the left and right atria — have irregular or chaotic muscle contractions.
Since the muscles quiver rather than contract, they don’t pump blood. This allows blood to pool in the atria. The left atrium has a small sac in the muscle wall called the left atrial appendage.
Though this pouch is part of the left atrium’s normal structure, blood can collect in the sac when atrial fibrillation prevents normal muscle contractions.
As the blood sits in the sac, it thickens and blood clots form. If a blood clot leaves the heart, it can easily travel to your brain, block blood flow, and cause a stroke.
The WATCHMAN is about the size of a quarter and is shaped to fit into the appendage. It has a round disc at the top that covers the opening and a mesh-like structure that holds the cover in place.
Once it’s inserted, tissues naturally grow over the top, securing the WATCHMAN and effectively closing the appendage. As a result, blood no longer flows into the appendage and any clots that were there can’t get out.
Arizona Heart Arrhythmia Associates inserts the WATCHMAN using a minimally invasive procedure called left atrial appendage occlusion. They make a tiny incision in a blood vessel in your upper leg and insert a catheter that holds the WATCHMAN.
Using image guidance, they thread the catheter through your blood vessels and into the left atrium, where they place the WATCHMAN into the left atrial appendage. Once it’s in place, the mesh-like structure attached to the cover opens like an umbrella, holding the device in the appendage.
The procedure typically takes an hour and you’ll stay in the hospital overnight. After your procedure, you take blood thinners while the tissue grows over the device. Most patients can stop taking blood thinners 45 days after receiving a WATCHMAN device.
To learn more about the WATCHMAN and if it’s an option for you, call Arizona Heart Arrhythmia Associates or schedule an appointment online today.