How the Watchman Implant Is Helping People with AFib (podcast)

The heart device is reducing risk of stroke and providing alternatives to blood thinners

The heart device is reducing risk of stroke and providing alternatives to blood thinners

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) causes fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath. It also raises your risk for a blood clot that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.


Many people with AFib are treated with blood thinners, which can have side effects. But there’s a new device on the market that reduces the likelihood of a stroke and the need for blood thinners. It’s called the Watchman. 


In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor, talks with Douglas Gibson, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Scripps Clinic and the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, and his patient David Brush. Brush had been on blood thinners for years to control his AFib. But now he’s got the Watchman, and this innovative device has changed his life.


They will also discuss how to find the best cardiologist for you.

Listen to the episode on AFib and the Watchman

Listen to the episode on AFib and the Watchman

Dr. Douglas Gibson and David Brush discuss how the Watchman implant came to be the right treatment to manage Brush's atrial fibrillation condition (AFib).

0:52 What is atrial fibrillation (AFib) ?

More than five million people in the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common cause of irregular heartbeat where the heart may suddenly start to beat too quickly, too slowly or with an erratic rhythm.


AFib occurs when the electrical impulses that control the way the heart beats become irregular. AFib becomes more common after age 60 and is often seen in patients with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea and other conditions.

3:17 Why it can lead to a stroke and the role of blood thinners

AFib can cause blood to pool in the left atrium of the heart, where the blood may clot. These clots can break loose and travel through the bloodstream and up to the brain, where they can cause a stroke.


To reduce the risk of a stroke caused by blood clots, many AFib patients take blood-thinning drugs, which can be challenging.


Blood thinners may cause patients to bruise easily and have a higher risk of severe bleeding problems.

6:13 What is a catheter ablation?

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure to treat atrial fibrillation. It can relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. During an ablation, the doctor destroys tiny areas in the heart that are firing off abnormal electrical impulses and causing atrial fibrillation.


Catheter ablation, also known as cardiac ablation, is used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that medicines are not controlling. These problems may be dangerous if they are not treated.


There are two methods for performing catheter ablation. Radiofrequency ablation uses heat energy to eliminate the problem area. Cryoablation uses very cold temperatures.

9:09 What is the Watchman? Who is a candidate for this procedure?

The Watchman heart procedure is a minimally invasive surgery that may be an option for people who cannot or prefer not to take blood-thinning medications.


The Watchman is a tiny, parachute-like device that is implanted in the heart and prevents stroke-causing clots from forming in the left atrial appendage.

16:42 How to find the right cardiologist

Start by finding a general cardiologist that you can build a trusting relationship with.


Depending on your needs, a general cardiologist may refer you to a specialist, including an interventional cardiologist, a cardiac electrophysiologist or a heart failure specialist.