111 Colchester Avenue
Main Campus, East Pavilion, Level 5
Burlington, VT 05401-1473
The Watchman Device at the UVM Medical Center
The Watchman device is a tiny, parachute-shaped heart implant used to prevent stroke in patients with irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) and other heart conditions. This device is used as an alternative to blood thinners and has been proven to reduce the risk of stroke at a comparable rate.
Heart and vascular specialists at The University of Vermont Medical Center are experts in the use of the Watchman device to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib) and have been performing the procedure since 2012. Our cardiology team will work closely with your providers to determine if you are a candidate for the Watchman device.
As one of the leading heart and vascular programs in the region, we offer:
- A team of experts: We bring together extensive expertise to support you in your journey to better health. Your care team will include general cardiologists, cardiac electrophysiologists, imaging specialists and a nurse navigator with vast experience in the use of the Watchman implant.
- Advanced treatment options: Our heart and vascular specialists are the only providers in Vermont offering catheter-based treatments as an alternative for patients with AFib who can’t tolerate blood thinners.
Conditions We Treat with the Watchman Device
The Watchman device is used to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib), also called irregular heartbeat. This condition occurs when the heart’s upper chambers contract irregularly, so the lower heart chambers don’t fill with blood as they should.
AFib can cause blood clots to form in the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small, thumb-shaped sac in the muscle wall of the top left chamber of the heart. This is where 90% of all blood clots originate for patients with AFib. Blood clots can break loose from the LAA and travel to the brain, resulting in a stroke. The Watchman device blocks off the LAA, preventing blood clots from being released.
The Watchman device is appropriate for patients who are at risk for stroke but are unable to tolerate blood thinners for long periods of time.
What to Expect from a Watchman Device Implantation
If you have AFib, can’t tolerate blood thinners and are concerned about your stroke risk, your cardiologist can refer you to our Watchman Clinic. You will have an initial consultation, during which our team will review your case to see if you are a good candidate for the implant.
Patients who are planning to get the Watchman device will need to be on blood-thinning medication for at least four weeks prior to surgery, so that blood clots are less likely to form.
The Watchman device is inserted under general anesthesia, which will require you to stay in the hospital overnight. During the procedure, your cardiologist:
- Makes a small incision in your groin and inserts a catheter into a blood vessel
- Guides the catheter to the heart using X-ray and ultrasound
- Uses the catheter to insert the implant into the LAA
Once the device has been implanted, it opens up like an umbrella. Heart tissue will grow over the device’s curved surface, blocking the entrance to the LAA. This typically takes a few weeks, during which you will need to continue taking blood thinners.
It is recommended that patients rest for two weeks following the procedure to let the groin heal completely.
The Watchman - For Medical Professionals
If you are a provider and need to refer a patient to our office, please send sending all pertinent notes, labs, imaging, demographics, including whether the patient has atrial fibrillation, if patient is currently on blood thinners and if the patient is at risk for bleeding, to the following:
Fax referral line: 802-847-2001
Email: ReferralCenteruvmhealth [dot] org (ReferralCenter[at]uvmhealth[dot]org). Please send encrypted files.
Phone: Toll Free 888-362-3242
For more information visit Referring Providers.