The CHRISTUS Health Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels is proud to offer the WATCHMAN procedure. This method of treatment is for our patients with atrial fibrillation, or Afib. To gain a better understanding of how this innovative technique works, here is an in-depth look into the process:
How does WATCHMAN Work?
If you are an individual with Afib that is not experiencing heart problems due to heart valve issues, more than 90 percent of stroke-causing clots that come from your heart will be formed in your left atrial appendage (LAA). This is why closing off this part of your heart is an effective way to reduce stroke risk.
The WATCHMAN Implant procedure was specifically designed to fit right into your LAA to permanently close this off and keep blood clots from escaping. WATCHMAN is about the size of a quarter and is made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
The WATCHMAN Procedure
THE WATCHMAN implant is placed in your heart through a one-time procedure. The device is permanent and completely undetectable. Through a minimally invasive method, the WATCHMAN is implanted using the same process of performing a stent procedure. This is completed within an hour under general anesthesia. Patients stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
Patients that are doing well with their prescribed blood thinners are not recommended for the WATCHMAN due to risks that may arise with having a medical procedure.
What Happens After the WATCHMAN Procedure is complete?
Warfarin (a common blood thinner) will be prescribed for you to take for 45 days until your LAA is permanently closed off. During this vital period, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor your progress by taking pictures of your heart to see when you can stop taking the prescription.
The next medication your doctor will prescribe to you is called clopidogrel (also known as Plavix®). You will also take aspirin for 6 months, which will be needed on an ongoing basis. Some patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long term.
In a clinical trial:
• 92 percent of patients were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after the procedure
• 99 percent of patients were able to stop taking warfarin within 1 year after the procedure