Atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heart rhythm, can leave you feeling unnerved and exhausted. Symptoms may include fluttering in your chest, skipped heartbeats, sweating and chest pain. In this video, Christopher Woods, M.D., talks about how atrial fibrillation occurs as well as its symptoms.
How It Works
One cause of AFib may be valvular heart disease, treated with procedures such as cardiac ablation, cardiac implantable devices and cardioversion. But if a heart valve problem isn’t the cause, you have a condition called non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF).
If you have NVAF, your doctor may recommend a Watchman implant. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015 for patients at high risk for bleeding, this device and procedure reduce stroke risk from AFib as effectively as warfarin (Coumadin), without warfarin’s long-term risk of bleeding.
Ninety percent of stroke-causing clots in people with NVAF come from the left atrial appendage—a part of the heart where blood cells can pool and stick together. The Watchman device closes off the left atrial appendage, preventing any blood clots from leaving it.
To install the Watchman, your doctor inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a vein in your groin until it reaches the heart’s upper right chamber, and then makes a small hole through the wall between the two upper heart chambers to reach the left atrial appendage.
Your doctor pushes the Watchman device through the catheter into the left atrial appendage, where it opens up like an umbrella and stays permanently, blocking any potential blood clots from entering the bloodstream. A thin layer of tissue grows over the device in about 45 days.
The Watchman implant may be a good choice if you:
- Have non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF).
- Have an increased risk for stroke.
- Are a candidate for warfarin (a blood thinner, also called Coumadin) therapy.
- Have reason to seek a non-medical alternative to warfarin.