Managing warfarin therapy can be a daunting task, especially for patients with a higher risk of stroke or those who have difficulty with frequent blood draws. Warfarin, the most widely used anticoagulant, requires periodic blood testing to monitor its effectiveness. This traditional method of testing may not always be feasible, but the good news is that Watchman devices offer an innovative solution by reducing or even eliminating the need for frequent blood tests. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to explain what watchman heart device are, how they work, and their benefits.
What is a Watchman device?
The Watchman device is a small implantable device that works like a filter and is usually implanted in the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart. Its primary function is to prevent clots from escaping the LAA and entering the bloodstream, where they can cause a stroke or damage other organs. Instead, the Watchman filters out any blood clots that may form, ultimately reducing the risk of stroke.
How does the Watchman device work?
The Watchman device is delivered via a minimally invasive procedure that takes roughly an hour to complete. During the procedure, your physician will insert a catheter through a small incision in your leg and guide it up into your heart. Once in your heart, the device will be placed into the LAA and left there permanently. Over time, heart tissue grows and begins to cover the Watchman device, eventually sealing off the LAA. This sealing prevents blood clots from escaping and reduces the risk of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Benefits of using a Watchman device
The Watchman device is a promising alternative to long-term warfarin therapy, especially for those with a higher risk of stroke, a history of bleeding, or an inability to follow the routine of frequent blood tests. By avoiding the use of warfarin, you are eliminating the risks associated with this medication, which include bleeding and drug interactions. Additionally, Watchman devices are effective in significantly reducing the risk of stroke, even more than warfarin therapy. Studies have shown that Watchman devices are up to four times more effective than warfarin in reducing the risk of stroke.
Who is a candidate for Watchman implantation?
Since a Watchman device has stringent implantation criteria, it is only suitable for specific patients. Patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation, a higher risk of stroke, and intolerance to long-term anticoagulation therapy are the ideal candidates for Watchman implantation. Your cardiologist will recommend an implantation procedure if your CHA2DS2-VASc score predicts a high risk of stroke or if there is a history of bleeding from anticoagulation therapy.
Watchman implantation outcomes
Complications related to Watchman implantation are rare; however, they can arise. The most common complication post-implantation is major bleeding, which can occur in approximately 2% of patients. The procedure is highly safe and effective, as evidenced by clinical studies involving patients who have undergone the procedure. Watchman implantation procedures have been shown to reduce the risk of ischemic stroke by up to 90% over an average follow-up period of 2.8 years. Furthermore, studies show that patients report improved quality of life after implantation of the Watchman device.
Implantation of a Watchman device is a safe and effective alternative to long-term warfarin therapy for patients at high risk of stroke and those intolerant to anticoagulation therapy. The procedure is minimally invasive and has evolved over time to minimize complications, so it’s now widely available at specialized centers worldwide. The Watchman device has significantly reduced the risk of stroke in many patients and has improved their quality of life. If you’re a patient with a higher risk of stroke or an underlying condition that limits your ability to follow the routine of frequent blood tests, Watchman implantation may be an excellent solution for you. Contact your physician to determine whether Watchman implantation is a viable option for you, and learn more about how the device can help you manage your atrial fibrillation today.