Left Atrial Appendage Closure-Watchman™
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat that reduces your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body effectively. When a heart is in AFib, blood clots tend to form in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small pouch in the muscle wall of the left top chamber of the heart. These blood clots can then break loose and travel through the blood stream to the other parts of the body. These blood clots can cause issues, and if one reaches the brain it could causes a stroke.
Blood thinning medications can reduce the risk of these blood clots. However, some people with AFib are not able to take these blood thinners and may need an alternative option.
Reasons for not taking blood thinners may include:
- History of major bleeding
- A medical condition, lifestyle or job that puts you at risk for major bleeding
- Weakness or walking problems that increase the risk of falling
- Problems with blood clotting that increases your risk for bleeding
Left atrial appendage closure is a minimally invasive procedure that provides an alternative option to taking long term blood thinners. This procedure involves placing a small device, known as the Watchman™, through a small tube (catheter) into a vein near the groin. The catheter is then advanced to the opening of the left atrial appendage where the Watchman device is inserted. Eventually tissue grows over the LAA opening to permanently seal off the small pouch. This prevents blood from pooling in the LAA and reduces the chance of blood clots forming and causing a stroke. The LAA is a very small part of the left top chamber of the heart, and sealing it off does not compromise any of the heart’s functions.
Click here to watch an animated video explaining the procedure.
If you have been diagnosed with AFib that is not caused by a heart valve problem and have been recommended to take blood thinners to reduce your risk of stroke, you may be a candidate for LAA closure. To learn more about this procedure or the Structural Heart program at St. Luke’s Regional Heart and Vascular Center, call St. Luke’s Cardiology Associates at 218.249.3057.
For additional information, visit www.watchman.com for resources provided by Boston Scientific.