Reduce Your Stroke Risk with the WATCHMAN™ Procedure

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of long-term disability. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after your 55th birthday. 

Are you at risk of stroke? Learn how you can reduce your risk with the WATCHMAN™ procedure from the expert team of cardiologists at Premier Cardiology Consultants. We have convenient locations on Long Island and in Forest Hills, Jamaica, Richmond Hill, and Rochdale, New York, and we offer comprehensive cardiology diagnostic and treatment services, including the innovative WATCHMAN procedure. 

Causes of stroke

Before explaining how the WATCHMAN procedure may be able to help reduce your risk of stroke, it’s important to understand why you’re at risk of this potentially life-threatening situation. There are different types of strokes. The most common is an ischemic stroke. This occurs when something blocks the blood flow to your brain, such as a blood clot or narrow blood vessels clogged with fatty deposits. 

You’re at risk for a blood clot to form in the upper chambers of your heart (the atria) if you have atrial fibrillation (AFib). Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the atria beat irregularly, which is usually too fast for the lower chamber of your heart to handle. 

This type of abnormal heartbeat interferes with blood flow in the upper chambers of your heart and increases your risk of a clot. If a clot forms in the atria, it can break off and travel to your brain, putting you at risk for stroke. 

Treatment for AFib

Typically, treatment for AFib includes blood thinners that keep your blood flowing freely through all the chambers of your heart. In some cases, the surgical placement of a pacemaker is needed to control your heart rate long-term. 

If your atrial fibrillation is not the result of a heart valve problem but simply due to arrythmia (irregular heartbeat), the WATCHMAN procedure can help lower your risk of stroke so you don’t have to rely on blood-thinning medications like warfarin or oral anticoagulants (OACs) for the rest of your life. These medications come with their own set of risks.

The WATCHMAN implant

The WATCHMAN implant is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure that can reduce your risk of stroke. The WATCHMAN is a permanent implant that closes off part of your heart where blood clots commonly occur. It’s a non-pharmaceutical treatment option that may help reduce your need for drugs to manage your risk of suffering a stroke. 

When people who have AFib not caused by a heart valve problems suffer a stroke, 90% of the time the blood clot originates in the left atrial appendage (LAA) in the heart. The WATCHMAN implant fits into the LAA, essentially closing off the route that allows blood clots to escape from the heart and travel to your brain. The WATCHMAN is only about the size of a quarter and made from lightweight medical materials. 

The WATCHMAN procedure is as simple as a stent placement

During the WATCHMAN procedure, you’re under anesthesia so you don’t feel any discomfort, and you’re relaxed. Your cardiologist makes a small incision in your upper thigh (groin area) and inserts a thin catheter. Using echocardiograms (ultrasound images), your doctor can visualize the entire procedure and monitor your heart. 

The catheter advances along the vein into the heart and the LAA under X-ray guidance. Once the implant is in place, your cardiologist opens it up so it blocks the LAA. Tissue grows over the surface of the implant, and it becomes a permanent part of your heart. 

What to expect after the procedure

After the procedure, you rest in the hospital where we monitor your progress and recovery. You take warfarin for about 45 days or until your LAA is permanently closed off. Then, your cardiologist conducts an echocardiogram to ensure the WATCHMAN is in place, so you can stop taking warfarin; you’ll take a different medication and aspirin for the next six months. \

Studies show that 99% of men and women who had the WATCHMAN procedure were able to stop taking warfarin within a year, and 92% of adults stopped taking it just 45 days after their procedure. 

The WATCHMAN implant offers an alternative solution for men and women who aren’t successfully managing their heart condition with medications alone, and it lowers your risk of stroke. 

To learn if you’re a good candidate for this innovative treatment, contact the Premier Cardiology Consultants office nearest you by phone, or request an appointment online today.

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