Afib stroke prevention: Go set a Watchman?

Ask the doctor

Published: January, 2017

afib stroke prevention
Image: Valeriya/Thinkstock

Q. I have atrial fibrillation and take Eliquis to prevent blood clots. While I have not had side effects from this medication, I understand there is a new implant that might allow me to stop taking the drug. Should I consider this new device? Is it as safe or safer than medication?

A. The implant you're referring to, the Watchman device, was approved by the FDA in early 2015. It's deployed through a catheter that's passed through a leg vein all the way to the heart. A cardiologist then positions the tiny, basket-like device at the opening of a small pouch that protrudes from the heart, called the left atrial appendage. People with atrial fibrillation (afib) tend to develop blood clots inside this pouch. The Watchman device is supposed to keep those clots from entering the bloodstream and traveling to the brain, where they might block a blood vessel and cause a stroke.

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