A small umbrella shaped device is revolutionizing stroke prevention therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation.
The WATCHMAN™ device is now available at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, which may eliminate long-term use of blood thinners for some patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AFib).
“This is a therapy revolution for stroke prevention in these patients,” said Rakesh Gopinathannair, MD, MA, FHRS, director of cardiac electrophysiology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and Jewish Hospital. “If you have been told you need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life because you have AFib and you have concerns about doing so, this is a great alternative.”
How It Works
Shaped like a small umbrella, the WATCHMAN implant (pictured below) is designed to catch blood clots that patients with AFib may develop. A highly trained cardiac electrophysiologist or interventional cardiologist inserts the implant, which is roughly the size of a quarter, using a minimally invasive procedure. The physician places a large IV into the femoral vein in the groin and threads the WATCHMAN device through a catheter until it reaches the upper left chamber of the heart.
Once in place, the device is well-positioned to catch clots that may form in the left atrial appendage, thus preventing these clots from breaking loose and traveling to the brain or lungs and causing a stroke.
The procedure to place the WATCHMAN is performed under general anesthesia, and typically takes between one and two hours. Patients typically stay in the hospital for just one day and then return home.
Easing Off Medication
Following the procedure, doctors will prescribe six weeks of a blood thinner, but that is only temporary.
“Usually within four-and-a-half months, the patient can be off all blood thinners — possibly for the rest of his or her life,” Dr. Gopinathannair said. “If you are seeking an alternative to blood-thinning medications, talk with your health care provider about this option.”
If you have AFib and are on blood thinners, you might be a candidate for WATCHMAN. To reach the Jewish Hospital WATCHMAN Team, call 844.206.3936.
“The WATCHMAN™ will be a game changer in how we prevent strokes in patients with nonvalvular AFib. Jewish Hospital offers patients in the region a great opportunity to try this option, and we have a great team in place with all of the expertise necessary to get this done.”
Rakesh Gopinathannair, MD, MA, FHRS
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of One Health Magazine. For the latest news on KentuckyOne Health, visit our News Center and read more about the WATCHMAN procedure.