Helping AFib Patients Enjoy Life Without Blood Thinners

Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular now offers the WATCHMAN implant for patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AFib) who want to reduce their risk of stroke without taking blood thinners. The device, which is implanted during a one-time catheter-based procedure, closes the left atrial appendage (LAA) where most AFib-related clots form.

One-time procedure with a lifetime of benefits

Many people with AFib face a lifetime of taking blood thinning medication like warfarin. Often patients don’t like taking blood thinners for several reasons, including:

  • Increased risk of bleeding, both in general and because of cherished hobbies and careers.
  • Having to have blood drawn regularly to check if they’re taking the right amount of medication.
  • Struggling to maintain the right clotting time while on the blood thinners.
  • Limiting certain foods that have vitamin K.

Because the WATCHMAN device permanently closes the LAA, 96% of patients are able to stop taking blood thinners 45 days after the procedure.

How the WATCHMAN procedure works

WATCHMAN is implanted into the heart in a minimally invasive, one-time procedure. To implant the WATCHMAN device:

  1. A narrow tube is inserted through a small cut in the patient’s upper leg.
  2. Using the tube, the doctor guides the device to the LAA.
  3. Over time, heart tissue grows over the device and fully closes the LAA so clots can’t form there.

The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.

Who is a candidate for WATCHMAN

If you have atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem and you’re looking for an alternative to blood thinners, it’s important to talk to your cardiologist about your options. Your cardiologist has the special knowledge needed to help you decide if WATCHMAN is right for you. If you don’t have a cardiologist, your primary care physician can refer you to one at Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular.

WATCHMAN is covered for eligible Medicare patients who meet certain national coverage criteria. It’s also covered by an increasing number of commercial insurers. Your cardiologist’s office may be able to help you find out what your coverage is.

WATCHMAN is different from blood thinners not only in how it works, but in how much it costs. Blood thinners must be taken every day for life and represents an ongoing cost. WATCHMAN is a one-time procedure and one-time cost. This means WATCHMAN can save you money over time.

If you or someone you love is interested in the WATCHMAN device, please call Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular at 503-257-0959.