Also called: Left Atrial Appendage Occluder; Watchman
The Watchman implant procedure is for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AFIB) who take anticoagulants for stroke prevention, but who can’t take long-term clot-preventing medications. More than 90% of stroke-causing clots form in the left atrial appendage (LAA) of patients with AFIB. The Watchman procedure prevents clots from forming and migrating from the LAA. That’s why you might hear the Watchman procedure called a left atrial appendage occluder.
This minimally-invasive procedure is done under general anesthesia. It is performed by placing a catheter in a vein in the patient’s leg, which allows access to the LAA. The Watchman device seals off the LAA, preventing clots from forming and migrating out of it. The implant device is about the size of a quarter and shaped like a parachute. Patients are typically discharged after a one-night hospital stay.
Anticoagulation (clot-preventing medicine) is continued for 45 days post-procedure. Then, the patient will return to verify the complete seal of the LAA. Once the seal is confirmed, clot-preventing medicine is stopped and the patient will transition to aspirin and blood thinners for 6 months, followed by aspirin only.
Evaluation for the Watchman Implant Procedure
Evaluation for Watchman includes a trans-esophageal echo to look for clots in the LAA and to determine the size and shape of the LAA. The patient will also have a consultation with a Watchman-implanting cardiologist and a second consultation with a non-implanting physician as part of the shared decision-making process.