An estimated 12 million Americans will have atrial fibrillation (AFib) by 2030. It’s already the underlying cause for over 25,000 deaths annually and a contributing cause for over 180,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
AFib can happen for several reasons. Under certain conditions, blood can pool in the upper left chamber of the heart, the left atrium, where it can clot. Due to this risk, you may have been tied to a lifetime of taking blood thinners. There’s now a minimally invasive, permanent implant called Watchman™ that prevents these atrial clots.
The ARK Cardiovascular & Arrhythmia Center team recommends the Watchman implant for their patients with qualifying forms of AFib. Contact the practice to learn more about this treatment if you’re taking blood thinners for irregular heart rhythms.
The heart consists of four chambers: an upper pair called atria, and the ventricles, the lower pair. The upper right atrium contains a collection of cells called the sinus node. These cells generate the signal that starts a heartbeat.
The signal travels to both upper chambers, then down to the ventricles. The movement of a normal heartbeat signal triggers the coordinated contractions that pump your blood with maximum efficiency.
When signal synchronization is lost between upper chambers, the pulsing of the atria scrambles the signals going to the ventricles. The resulting heartbeat tends to be fast, irregular, and inefficient for pumping blood.
An anatomical feature of the heart, called the left atrial appendage (LAA), is the site of blood pooling when some types of AFib occur. When old blood collects in the LAA, it can begin to clot. The LAA is an easy place, however, for a clot to dislodge. Over 90% of clots causing stroke originate at the LAA in AFib patients whose irregular rhythms don’t involve the heart valves.
Traditionally, AFib patients take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to help prevent the formation of clots in the LAA. However, blood thinners themselves have side effects that range from minor to serious, including increased risk of internal bleeding, hair loss, and prolonged bleeding from cuts.
The principle behind the Watchman implant is simple. Placed into the LAA, the Watchman fills the pocket formed by the LAA. Blood no longer pools there, and the risk of atrial clots drops significantly. Over time, heart tissue grows over the Watchman, making it a permanent modification providing long-term protection against AFib-related blood clots and strokes.
Placement of the Watchman is minimally invasive, entering through a blood vessel in your leg. The implant moves through a narrow tube, and your surgeon places the implant in the LAA. The procedure takes about 30 minutes under general anesthesia, and a typical hospital stay is 24 hours or less.
You’ll continue on blood thinners for 45 days after your procedure to give the implant time to incorporate itself. In clinical trials, the Watchman implant demonstrated that 96% of those studied could safely discontinue blood thinner medications after 45 days.
In the six months following your procedure, you’ll take a combination of medications to ease your transition. You’ll continue to take low-dose aspirin after the six-month point.
For those struggling with conventional blood thinner therapy against AFib-related clots, there’s a new solution. Contact the Watchman specialists at ARK Cardiovascular & Arrhythmia Center. Choose the nearest office from our Detroit, Dearborn, or Trenton locations and make an appointment by phone or online to learn more about the Watchman implant. It may be the game-changer you’ve sought, so book your consultation now.