A small mechanical device Watchmen, which is placed in the heart, can substitute a long-term use of anticoagulant medications that are thinning the blood.
The device is an alternative method for the treatment of the atrial fibrillation (AF), one of the most serious heart problems.
The implant looks like a tiny umbrella or grid, but this miniature medical device can lead to great advances in the treatment of AF and prevent a stroke in patients with AF.
AF, without exaggeration, has become an epidemic that is no less dangerous than epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Number of cases of AF will increase together with increase of the "aging" population. AF is the most common form of cardiac disorders, which affects more than 2.2 million people in the United States. AF leads to acceleration of the heart contractions and, thereby, altering a normal blood flow. This disorder can lead to stagnation of blood and formation of blood clots in the left atria of the heart. Formed blood clots can travel though the blood system and can enter the brain and cause a stroke.
Because of the risk of stroke, a blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (also known under the brand name Coumadin) is prescribed to patients with the AF to prevent blood clots formation. These medications can have unpleasant and even the negative side effects such as easy bruising and internal bleeding. Patients who are taking these drugs should frequently (at least once a week) visits the doctor for routine monitoring a blood coagulation.
These drugs have also made significant restrictions in the diet of the patient and his/her physical activity.
During implantation, the device is inserted through the femoral artery using a special catheter and, under the control of X-ray and ECHO, is placed at the entrance to the left atrial appendage. The device prevents movement of blood clots into the bloodstream due to its dense grid.The patient is discharged from the hospital the next day after device implantation.
After implantation, patients should continue taking blood-thinning medications, however, for 45 days to make sure that the device is functioning properly and fully isolated blood clots in the left atrial appendage. After this, the patient will not have any restrictions in physical activity or food choices associated with AF.