Atrial Appendage Closure (WATCHMAN™)

Permanent protection against stroke, without lifelong blood thinners

What is atrial appendage closure (WATCHMAN™)?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can cause blood clots to form in your left atrial appendage, basically a cul-de-sac in your heart. This condition puts you at a higher risk of stroke. 

Atrial appendage closure, also called left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO), is a minimally invasive procedure for a permanent fix. It blocks your heart's "cul-de-sac" where blood clots tend to form. If you're on blood thinners for AFib, this procedure can be a life-changing alternative. 

The WATCHMAN™ is a tiny, umbrella-shaped device that blocks the left atrial appendage in this procedure. Your heart's tissue grows over the device in about 90 days, creating a perfectly sealed barrier. The WATCHMAN has a proven safety record of more than 20 years of clinical trials and real-world success. 

Who is a candidate?

Most people with AFib are candidates for the WATCHMAN. If a valve problem causes your AFib or if you're prone to major bleeding, you might not be eligible.

Ultimately, everyone's situation is different. That's why we take detailed steps to explore your personal condition and surrounding factors before making a final decision. 

What to expect

Before the procedure:

  • Your doctor may have you pause certain medications.
  • Stop eating and drinking by midnight the day before.

During the procedure:

  • Surgery usually takes no more than an hour.
  • You'll receive general anesthesia to put you in a sleep-like state for the procedure. 
  • The surgeon inserts the WATCHMAN through a single incision site, usually in the groin, and implants it in your left atrial appendage to permanently close it off.
  • Typically, you'll stay in the hospital overnight and go home the next day. 

After the procedure:

  • It's common to have bruising or tenderness around the insertion site for a few days.
  • You should be back to nonstrenuous activity in 24 to 48 hours.
  • You'll keep taking blood thinners for 45 days while you heal. Further testing can confirm when you can stop taking them for good.
  • Take additional prescriptions and aspirin as directed by your doctor. 

Benefits

If you have AFib, atrial appendage closure has many benefits. Results will vary depending on your unique situation, but the benefits generally include: 

  • minimally invasive, forever fix: Atrial appendage closure is a one-time procedure that requires only a single incision, usually in the groin.
  • quick recovery: Usually, you'll leave the hospital the day after the procedure and return to your usual activities within 24 to 48 hours. 
  • no more blood thinners: 96 percent of patients are permanently off blood thinners after healing, leading to more energy and less fear of bleeding. 
  • reduced stroke risk for a lifetime: Removing the anxiety of having a stroke is a game-changer. There's renewed confidence and freedom.

“We have the country’s first 4D CT angio suite; it’s a game changer for us. We’re pioneering new techniques in terms of delivery of the WATCHMAN device and validating the device with a CT at the same time of the implant — no one has been able to do before.” ~Brian Schuler, MD

York Hospital Recruitment Stills_HV209577

A top team in the nation

We're a national leader in research, technology and procedures for atrial appendage closure. Our team has successfully performed hundreds of implants and is involved with most major research projects for the procedure.

International impact

Our experts don't just perform atrial appendage closures. They had a hand in developing WATCHMAN's second-generation device and techniques used around the world.

Superior imaging for safer outcomes

We're one of two health systems in North America that has a 4D computed tomography (CT) scanner in our cath lab. Basically, we can see the procedure more vividly for safer, superior outcomes.

Procedure pioneers

Our team has pioneered a new approach to WATCHMAN™ that achieves a perfect fit. We make a 3D model of your heart for exact measurements and use injected dye (CT angiography) to help ensure that we implant your device with absolute accuracy.