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Sands-Constellation Heart Institute



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Rochester Regional Health is home to the region’s most experienced structural heart and heart rhythm programs, serving as a major center for treating patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) from across Central and Western New York. Our expert cardiologists and electrophysiologists provide a comprehensive range of heart rhythm and AFib care, including offering world-class expertise and innovative treatments like WATCHMAN.

What is AFib and Why Does It Matter?

An illustration of the WATCHMAN device in a heart. Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common irregular heart rhythm that arises from the top chambers (or atria) of the heart.

AFib significantly increases your risk for stroke, affecting the heart's ability to pump blood causing blood to pool in the left atrial appendage (LAA). In the LAA, blood can stick together to form a clot, escape the LAA, and travel anywhere in the body. If the blood clot travels to the brain, it can cut-off the blood supply to the brain and cause a stroke.The majority of strokes (> 90%) in AFib are caused by clots formed in the LAA.

Blood thinners are typically used to prevent blood clots from forming in the LAA. But:

  • Although blood thinners prevent stroke they also significantly increase the risk for serious or life-threatening bleeding.
  • Many patients have difficulty staying on a blood thinner due to their health history or lifestyle.

WATCHMAN is an effective alternative to blood thinners.

What is WATCHMAN and What Are the Benefits?

WATCHMAN is a one-time procedure that implants a permanent medical device into the LAA. Once implanted, the LAA is closed and the WATCHMAN prevents blood clots from forming and escaping from the LAA.

WATCHMAN is a minimally invasive procedure without any incision or stitches and is currently the only FDA-approved alternative to warfarin (blood thinners) to reduce stroke in AFib.

The benefits of WATCHMAN include: 

  • It provides a similar reduction in stroke as warfarin (blood thinner).
  • Compared with warfarin, WATCHMAN significantly reduces:
    • Bleeding (including serious and life-threatening)
    • Hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain)
    • Death

  • Heart patient Gary Least with his wife in Rochester

    WATCHMAN Saves AFib Patient's Life

    Doctors told Gary Least that blood thinners would kill his kidneys, so he got the WATCHMAN procedure and it saved his life.

    Read Full Article

Am I Candidate For WATCHMAN?

You are a candidate for WATCHMAN if you:

  • Have AFib
  • Have been recommended or are currently taking blood thinners for Afib
  • Can take a blood thinner but are seeking an alternative
  • Potential reasons for seeking an alternative to blood thinners:
    • History of bleeding
    • Higher risk for major bleeding on a blood thinner. Some examples include:
      • Lifestyle: extreme or contact sports, biking, hunting
      • Occupation: manual laborer, airline pilot, race car driver
      • Conditions: history of falls, seizures, heartburn or stomach ulcers
    • Difficulty staying within the therapeutic range for warfarin

Interested in the WATCHMAN procedure? Take this short survey to see if you are a candidate.

The WATCHMAN Procedure and What To Expect

Before the procedure

Your implanting doctor may require you to undergo a transesophagel echocardiogram (TEE) or CT scan to better understand the anatomy (or size and shape) of your LAA to help plan the procedure.

During the procedure

The WATCHMAN procedure takes approximately one hour to perform and is done under general anesthesia. Your physician will insert the device using a vein in the leg and then use a long tube (or catheter) and TEE image guidance to deliver the WATCHMAN device to the right location.  The device can be implanted successfully in > 95% of patients.

Procedure complications can happen but are rare. Your physician will discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure including alternative treatment options.

After the procedure

Immediately after the procedure, you'll go to recovery and be on bed rest for a few hours. Typically, you can leave the hospital the same (or the following) day with minimal restrictions.

Follow-up care after the procedure includes: 

  • You typically will have a follow-up appointment with the medical professional who referred you for the procedure.
  • You will remain on a blood thinner for a minimum of 45 days following the procedure*.
  • At 45 days, you will undergo another echo (TEE).
    • Sedation is typically used for the procedure.
    • Takes approximately 10-15 minutes.
    • You go home usually 1-2 hours after the procedure.
  • This echo allows your doctor to see if the WATCHMAN device has sealed your LAA.
  • If the LAA is permanently sealed or closed, then your physician will typically stop your blood thinner and have you continue aspirin (or aspirin and clopidogrel).

*If you cannot take blood thinners, Rochester Regional Hospital is participating in a clinical trial (ASAP-TOO) that is studying WATCHMAN in patients who cannot take blood thinners. For more information about this trial, please contact (585) 922-3536 or email [email protected].

Video provided courtesy of Boston Scientific. © 2019 Boston Scientific Corporation or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

Learn more about the WATCHMAN device

How To Get Started

To schedule a consultation or to make a referral, call us at (585) 442-5320 or contact our coordinator, Maria Westra at (585) 922-6017 or [email protected].

Call us at
(585) 442-5320

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