Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, resulting in a fast or irregular heart rhythm among more than 5 million Americans. Afib is traditionally treated with blood-thinners or anticoagulants such as warfarin, but a new device, recently approved by the FDA, is changing the way Afib is treated.
The WATCHMAN™ Left Arial Appendage Closure Device offers patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation a potentially life-changing stroke risk treatment option that could free them from the challenges of long-term warfarin therapy.
The Frankel Cardiovascular Center is among the first heart centers in the nation to use the WATCHMAN Device. With stroke being one of the most feared consequences of Afib, the WATCHMAN Device has proved to be a viable alternative to blood-thinning medications, which are not well-tolerated by some patients and have a significant risk for bleeding complications.
How it works
The WATCHMAN closes off the left atrial appendage where harmful blood clots can form and then enter the bloodstream, causing a stroke. By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke and other systemic embolization may be reduced.
Our team of specialists evaluates patients to determine their eligibility for the WATCHMAN Device. For eligible patients, doctors insert a catheter through a leg vein and into the patient’s heart, and then deploy the WATCHMAN Device to seal off the left atria appendage sack. Following the procedure, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours. Most patients will be able to discontinue the use of blood thinners after 45 days.
Who’s at risk for Afib?
Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include:
- Age older than 60 (although Afib can affect younger individuals as well)
- Caucasian males
- Sleep apnea
- Heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease and heart attack
- Family history of atrial fibrillation
- Surgery on the heart
- History of rheumatic fever
- Infection, such as pneumonia or endocarditis
- Lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Metabolic conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes
- Use of alcohol and/or stimulants
- Congenital heart disease and surgical repair of congenital heart disease
Take the next step:
Dr. Hamid Ghanbari is a cardiovascular electrophysiologist at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. His research interests include atrial fibrillation ablation, ventricular tachycardia ablation and complex cardiac rhythm device management.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.