Left atrial appendage closure (Watchman device)

If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (Afib), you’re at increased risk for stroke. Blood thinners are the traditional treatment, but they can cause serious side effects.

A Watchman device, implanted by an expert University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center interventional cardiologist, might be a better solution for you. Watchman can reduce your stroke risk and eliminate the need to take blood thinners.

Our approach to implanting the Watchman device

Our specialists have extensive experience implanting the Watchman device in patients whose Afib isn’t caused by heart valve problems.

We implant more of these devices than anyone else in the state. We were the first to offer the newest version of the Watchman. And because we’re at the forefront of clinical research, we’re part of an international trial of the Watchman device in patients who might not meet the currently approved criteria for Watchman.

How the Watchman device works

The upper left chamber of your heart (left atrium) has a small pouch of tissue called the left atrial appendage (LAA). In people with Afib, blood can collect there and form clots.

If clots are pumped out of the heart, they can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. The Watchman device, an umbrella-shaped filter about the size of a quarter, catches clots before they leave the heart.

Watchman device success rates

After 45 days, 92% of patients who get a Watchman device can completely stop taking blood thinners. After one year, that percentage goes up to 99%.

Coming off blood thinners reduces your risk of stroke. Data analysis shows that you’re 80% less likely to have a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) after having a Watchman implanted.

What to expect with the Watchman device

It takes about an hour for one of our highly trained interventional cardiologists to insert a Watchman device. During that time:

  • You’ll be placed under general anesthesia, so you’ll be asleep during the procedure.
  • Your cardiologist will make a small incision in a vein near your groin and will insert a tube called a catheter into the incision.
  • The cardiologist will thread the catheter through your blood vessels to your heart. Once there, the Watchman will be guided through the tube and placed inside the opening of your left atrial appendage.
  • You’ll likely stay in the hospital overnight and go home the next day.
  • You can resume most normal daily activities 24 hours after your procedure, but you will need to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for about a week.

Are you a candidate for a Watchman device?

If you’re taking blood thinners and doing well on them, you may not need a Watchman. But the device might be right for you if you can’t take blood thinners because:

  • You have a history of major bleeding while on blood thinners.
  • You have a medical condition such as diabetes, an ulcer, or high blood pressure.
  • You have strength or walking problems that increase your risk of falling.
  • Your blood clots more slowly than normal, making you more likely to have bleeding problems when taking blood thinners.

Your care team will consider all the potential risks and benefits of the Watchman and other stroke prevention therapies.

The UI Heart and Vascular Center offers Iowa’s widest range of options for effectively treating Afib and its effects. And our deep clinical experience helps us choose exactly the right treatment for you.

Wondering whether a Watchman device would be right for you?

We'll connect you with an expert to discuss your options.

Care Team