WATCHMAN Q&A: Alternative to Blood Thinners for Atrial Fibrillation

July 25, 2017

The WATCHMAN Implant is a groundbreaking device that works to prevent clots in patients with Atrial Fibrillation. This alternative to blood thinning medication can greatly improve the quality of life for people who struggle with the common side effects of Warfarin and similar medicines. We sat down with Brittany Winestock, MSN, FNP-BC, Providence Health's dedicated specialist for the WATCHMAN device to ask her about this new technology. 

What is the WATCHMAN and what does it treat?

brittany Winestock WATCHMAN Device Specialist at Providence Health
Brittany Winestock, MSN, FNP-BC

WATCHMAN is a permanent device used for patients with atrial fibrillation to decrease their risk of stroke, without the need for blood thinner medications. After their 45-day follow up appointment, patients may no longer need to take an anticoagulant. This also decreases their bleeding risk, which is beneficial for patients with frequent GI bleeds, etc.

Why is this device special or “groundbreaking”?

Because blood thinning medications inhibit the blood's ability to coagulate anywhere within in the body, not just in the heart, they can cause dangerous bleeding complications. Some patients are less tolerant of the complications than others. The following may be signs that a patient is incompatible with their blood thinning medication and may even require immediate attention: 

  • Excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Coughing up red in color
  • Severe headache or stomachache
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Blood in the urine or bowel movements

What makes this device stand out is that it works to prevent blood clots in the heart specifically and without medication.  

Who is a candidate for the WATCHMAN?

Candidates for WATCHMAN include patients with atrial fibrillation unrelated to heart valve complications; someone who needs an alternative to anticoagulants (blood thinners); and patients with a history of bleeding events.

What is the implantation process like from a patient standpoint? 

The process for patients is a one-time procedure to implant the device. For the procedure, the patient will receive anesthesia and stay one night in the hospital to be monitored. The next morning, the patient can expect to be assessed and discharged. The patient will be able to maintain regular activities of daily living, as long as they are mindful to not exert themselves to heavily for one month. There will be a one week follow up appointment to assess the patient and then a 45-day follow up to check the device. On this day the patient may be able to discontinue taking blood thinners... forever.

If someone thinks they are a good fit for WATCHMAN, what should they do next?

They should contact me, Brittany Winestock at 803-331-6611(c) 803-256-5994(O).

Providence Health introduced the WATCHMAN to the Midlands earlier this year. Read more about the device and its implantation offerings here at Providence.  

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Brittany Winestock, MSN, FNP-BC, WATCHMAN Nurse Practitioner at Providence Health, received her Masters of Science in Nursing from Walden University and her BSN from Lander University. Board-certified as a family nurse practitioner, Mrs. Winestock’s special focus is cardiac care, including the significant role she played in the establishment and coordination of the Providence Health Women Heart Center program.