If you are someone who is at a high risk of developing blood clots or stroke, then you might have heard of Watchman devices. These devices are designed to prevent strokes and blood clots by closing the left atrial appendage (LAA), a tiny sac in the heart where blood clots can form and lead to a stroke. Watchman devices might sound scary, but they are actually a safer alternative to blood thinners, which can cause bleeding and have other side effects. In this comprehensive guide, we will go over everything you need to know about using a watchman heart device for stroke prevention.
What is a Watchman device?
A Watchman device is a small, umbrella-shaped device that is inserted into the LAA through a catheter. Once it is in place, it seals off the LAA, preventing blood clots from forming and travelling to the brain, which can cause a stroke. The Watchman device is made of a special material that is safe for the heart, and it is designed to stay in place permanently.
Who can benefit from a Watchman device?
Watchman devices are typically recommended for people who have atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is a type of irregular heartbeat that can increase the risk of strokes and blood clots. People who have AFib are usually prescribed blood thinners to prevent strokes, but in some cases, blood thinners can cause adverse effects or complications. A Watchman device may be an option for people who cannot take blood thinners or who want to avoid their side effects.
How is a Watchman device inserted, and what does the procedure involve?
Inserting a Watchman device is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed under sedation and usually takes about an hour. The procedure involves the following steps:
- A catheter is inserted into a vein in your leg and guided to your heart.
- The doctor uses an imaging tool called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) to guide the catheter to the LAA.
- The Watchman device is then inserted through the catheter and placed inside the LAA.
- Once in place, the device expands to fit the shape of the LAA, sealing it off.
After the procedure, you will likely spend a night in the hospital for monitoring, but you should be able to go home the next day.
What are the risks and benefits of using a Watchman device?
Like any medical procedure, using a Watchman device comes with certain risks and benefits. Some potential risks include bleeding, bruising, infection, or damage to blood vessels or the heart. There is also a small risk of the device becoming dislodged or failing to seal off the LAA completely. However, the benefits of a Watchman device can be significant for people who are at high risk of developing blood clots or strokes. These benefits may include:
- Reduced risk of stroke or blood clots
- Reduction in the need for blood thinners
- Improved quality of life
- Lower healthcare costs in the long term
Watchman devices can be a safe and effective option for stroke prevention in people with AFib. If you are considering a Watchman device, it is essential to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits, as well as any other concerns you may have. Overall, a Watchman device may be a better alternative to blood thinners for some people, and it can help reduce the risk of stroke and improve your quality of life in the long term.