AFib & Risk of Stroke

For patients living with a heart arrhythmia, the increased risk of stroke is one of the most serious side-effects. It is estimated that AFib patients have five times the stroke risk of patients without AFib. Most AFib patients, regardless of the severity of their symptoms or frequency of episodes, require treatment to reduce the risk of stroke.

Many who suffer from AFib are forced to remain on medication, such as warfarin, to prevent blood clots and control the risk of stroke. Recently, however, the FDA has approved the use of the new WATCHMAN Device, which can be a long-term alternative to drug therapy for many who face an increased risk of stroke.

The Left Atrial Appendage

The Left Atrial Appendage

In patients with AFib, blood tends to pool and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA), a thin, sack-like appendix located in the upper left chamber of the heart.

A blood clot that breaks loose from this area may migrate through the blood vessels and eventually plug a smaller vessel in the brain or heart resulting in a stroke or heart attack.

In non-valvular AFib, over 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the left atrium are formed in the LAA.

What is the WATCHMAN Device?

The WATCHMAN Device is designed specifically as a left atrial appendage (LAA) closure mechanism. By placing the WATCHMAN Device at the opening of the left atrial appendage, it can reduce the risk of blood clots for many people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. WATCHMAN adheres to the tissue via ten active fixation anchors that increase stability. By conforming to the left atrial appendage, the device minimizes the surface area facing the left atrium and reduces the risk of embolization.

The WATCHMAN left atrial appendage closure device has already been implanted in over 10,000 patients all around the world. It has emerged as a life-changing alternative for many people who live with a daily risk of stroke, and who are seeking an alternative to drug treatment therapy.

WATCHMAN Device

Who can undergo the procedure?

Currently, the WATCHMAN Device is recommended for those suffering from non-valvular atrial fibrillation who are potential candidates for anticoagulation drug therapy due to an increased risk of stroke. The WATCHMAN Device is designed as an alternative to warfarin therapy for those who are seeking a long-term, non-pharmacological treatment option. In all cases, the effects of the device and procedure should be compared to those of warfarin therapy for each individual patient.

How does the procedure work?

The WATCHMAN Device is inserted into the left atrial appendage opening via the specially-designed WATCHMAN Access Sheath. The Access Sheath, which is available in three different curvatures to suit the patient, allows a catheter access into the left atrial appendage.

The WATCHMAN implant is then inserted via the catheter, allowing the frame and mesh covering to expand to fit the dimensions of the left atrial opening.

Enhancing Your Quality of Life

Dr. Dilip Mathew is one of the first cardiac electrophysiologists in the area to offer this groundbreaking alternative to patients. It may be possible to lower your risk of stroke-causing blood clots and eventually discontinue warfarin therapy. If you are an atrial fibrillation patient in the Sarasota area and think you may be a candidate for the WATCHMAN procedure, schedule a consultation with Heart Rhythm Consultants today. 

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