Alternative to Long-Term Warfarin Use
Patients who are taking warfarin on a long-term basis have a different option to help prevent blood clots and possible stroke. The WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant is an alternative for many patients that is designed to work as a safety net by closing off the left atrial appendage (LAA), and catching harmful blood clots before they enter the bloodstream whenever blood pools in the heart.
Texoma Heart Institute at Texoma Medical Center was the first hospital in the region to offer this FDA-approved implant device. The LAAC device is implanted through a small needle puncture in the groin area. It looks like a tiny parachute made from flexible mesh and springy wires and is guided through a catheter into a patient’s heart, where it can filter potential blood clots and prevent possible stroke. WATCHMAN has been shown to prevent stroke as much as warfarin and with significantly less bleeding complications, according to a clinical trial conducted by Boston Scientific, the developer of the WATCHMAN device.
Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Risk
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans have atrial fibrillation (AF), which starts as an irregular and rapid heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. The rhythm change may begin slowly but becomes stronger and more constant as time goes on. AF doesn't always have symptoms. Many people don't even know they have it. Others may experience one or more of the symptoms below:
- Feeling faint
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
Physicians often treat AF with blood-thinning medications, including aspirin or warfarin to prevent stroke. AF ablation may help the heart rate slow or help to control the heart rhythm. The WATCHMAN Device is an alternative to taking blood thinners.
Atrial Fibrillation Risk Factors
As you age, your risk for AF may increase. You should discuss AF with your physician if you have one or more of the risks below:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Enlargement of the left side of the heart chambers
- European ancestry
- Excessive alcohol use
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Increased age
- Ischemic heart disease
Is the WATCHMAN Implant right for you?
If you’ve been told you need to take blood-thinning medication because you’re at increased risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation, the WATCHMAN Implant could be right for you. The WATCHMAN Implant is a one-time procedure that may allow you to stop taking blood thinners after 45 days.