The WATCHMAN™ Device

If you have atrial fibrillation that’s not caused by heart valve problems, and are looking for an

alternative to blood thinners, Premier Health offers a one-time procedure that may reduce your risk of stroke for a lifetime.

This procedure – the left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) with the WATCHMAN™ Device – is performed by Premier Health’s multidisciplinary structural heart team at Atrium Medical Center and Miami Valley Hospital.

Premier Health is the first in Southwest Ohio to offer this procedure, which

implants the WATCHMAN, a permanent device that’s about the size of a quarter, in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small, long, sac-like pocket in the wall of the left atrium (the top left chamber of the heart).

In most cases, the LAA causes no problems for people with normal heart rhythms. But the erratic heartbeat of AFib can cause blood to pool in the LAA. There the blood can clot, raising the risk of stroke. The WATCHMAN Device is designed to lower this risk.

Advantages of LAAC with the WATCHMAN Device

The primary advantage is lowering stroke risk.

Because of the large size of blood clots that tend to form in the LAA, AFib-related strokes can be more severe and cause higher rates of disability and death. AFib puts you at five times greater risk of having an ischemic stroke than someone with a normal heart rhythm.

Another advantage: the LAAC procedure can free some people with AFib from the daily challenges of taking the blood thinner warfarin. This is an advantage if you’re not a good candidate for long-term blood thinner use – due to certain medical conditions, a history of bleeding while on blood-thinners, or if your job or leisure activities put you at risk of accidents or falls that could cause bleeding. 

How the WATCHMAN Device Is Implanted

The LAAC is a minimally invasive, catheter-based intervention performed while the patient’s heart is still beating. In contrast, traditional open-chest surgery requires a sternotomy (a large incision in the chest), and a heart-lung bypass machine, which takes over functions of the heart and lungs during surgery.

To perform the LAAC procedure, Premier Health’s multidisciplinary structural heart team inserts a special catheter, a long, thin tube, into a large blood vessel, usually in the groin. The catheter carries a compressed WATCHMAN device as the team, assisted by advanced imaging technology, gently guides it to the left atrium of the heart.

Because left atrial appendages are shaped and sized differently in different people, our experienced team uses advanced ultrasound technology to take measurements, choose the appropriately sized device, and verify proper placement over the opening of the LAA. Once in position, the device is released from the catheter, and the catheter is gently removed. The procedure takes about an hour.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the WATCHMAN Device for use in the United States in 2015. Watch an animated video about the LAAC with the WATCHMAN™ Device to learn more. 

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

What Else To Know About the LAAC With the WATCHMAN Device

  • An advanced practice provider will guide you and your family through pre-procedure testing, post-procedure care, and recovery.
  • LAAC can be performed using monitored anesthesia care .
  • This is a one-time intervention.
  • Often, patients will describe their experience with left atrial appendage closure as comparable to coronary angioplasty
  • Every person recovers differently, but because this is a catheter-based intervention, many of our LAAC patients are discharged within 24 hours. Your care team will provide you guidelines for expectations, activities, and medications.
  • After your hospital discharge, you will continue to see your primary care provider to monitor your health and atrial fibrillation.

Please note: Not all patients being treated for atrial fibrillation with warfarin are appropriate candidates for left atrial appendage closure. We encourage you to discuss your eligibility and treatment options to reduce AFib-related stroke risk with your health care provider or one of our team members. 

Contact Us

Every moment of your life depends on a strong, healthy heart. The Premier Health cardiology and vascular services team is here to help you, each beat of the way, with prevention, diagnostic, treatment, and rehabilitation services in our hospitals, outpatient centers, and medical offices across Southwest Ohio.