Q. I have occasional atrial fibrillation and take anti-clotting medication. My doctor suggested that I consider getting a Watchman device. What exactly is this, and are there any drawbacks?
A. The Watchman device is a tiny, basket-like device that's implanted inside the heart (see illustration). It's designed to help prevent clots from traveling from the heart to the brain, where they might block a blood vessel and cause a stroke. Blood clots tend to form during bouts of atrial fibrillation (afib) because the heart's upper chambers (atria) quiver instead of beating normally. As a result, blood tends to stagnate and form clots, most of which form in a tiny pouch that hangs off the upper left side of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA).
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About the Author
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
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