AHVI is proud to be the first and only provider in Alaska to offer the WATCHMAN implant as an alternative to blood thinners for patients living with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. The implant is cost-effective, protects patient health, and improves the quality of our patients’ lives. Learn more about this life-changing treatment option offered exclusively by AHVI.
About Non-Valvular Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
AFib is a common heart condition often caused by high blood pressure, an overly active thyroid gland, genetics, and age. Most atrial fibrillation is not linked to structural deficits in the heart’s valves. Atrial fibrillation skews the heart’s normal activity so that the heart’s four chambers begin beating rapidly out of sync with one another, resulting in fatigue, shortness of breath, and uncharacteristic feelings of weakness.
The main danger of atrial fibrillation is the risk that the blood swirling inefficiently through the heart’s chambers will congeal into clots, thereby significantly increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and major organ damage.
What is the usual treatment, and what risks are associated with it?
Many patients with AFib require blood thinners to prevent strokes. Thinning the blood makes it much less likely for blood clots to form, thereby alleviating the risk of AFib’s most serious health complications. Unfortunately, blood thinners come with their own consequences. Blood clotting is one of the human body’s most important defenses for healing from wounds—without it, even minor scrapes and bruises present real risk. Predictably, the side effects of blood thinners include excessive bleeding, weakness, fatigue, irregular bleeding (such as blood in the stool or from the gums), body pains, and more.
What is the new treatment option and how does it work?
When atrial fibrillation occurs in hearts with healthy valves, about 90% of blood clots form in a small recess off the upper left chamber, called the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA). As an appendage, the LAA sticks out like a small pocket. Blood swirling within the LAA can congeal into a clot as it just like an eddy formed off the bank of a river, the current slows as its momentum gets spun around. One way to prevent clot formation therefore is to seal off the LAA.
The FDA has approved the use of a single implant device called WATCHMAN to do precisely that. The WATCHMAN implant is about the size of a quarter, and it requires a single, simple procedure to install. Doctors sedate the patient, make a small incision on the upper thigh, follow the artery up to the heart, install the implant, and close the incision. The typical procedure takes less than a half hour.
What are the benefits of WATCHMAN compared to blood thinners?
After receiving the WATCHMAN implant, 96% of patients were able to entirely go off blood thinners in just 45 days. The WATCHMAN enjoys a stellar international performance record, including 10 clinical trials and 150,000 real-world implants. Alaska Heart cardiologists have been implanting this device since 2017, are excited to offer the latest generation Watchman FLX just released this yaer, to Alaskans. They are participating in cutting edge research with this device to evaluate its use in expanded groups of patients. WATCHMAN is covered by Medicare and many other health insurance plans.
For more information about WATCHMAN, visit WATCHMAN.org or watch these videos
What are the next steps?
Alaska Heart & Vascular Institute has partnered with Alaska Regional Hospital to begin offering the WATCHMAN implant to AFib patients in Alaska. We are currently the only provider in Alaska positioned to offer WATCHMAN as a treatment option. Talk to your doctor to discuss your treatment options and whether WATCHMAN is a good fit for your healthcare needs.
You may also answer a quick survey to find out if you are a good candidate for this treatment option.