Alternative to Long-Term Warfarin Use

Patients who are taking warfarin on a long-term basis now have a next generation option to help prevent blood clots and possible stroke. The WATCHMAN FLX™ Left Atrial Appendage (LAAC) Implant, the next generation of the The Watchman™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant, is now available at the Heart and Vascular Center at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

On August 18, 2020, Manatee Memorial became the first hospital on the Florida West Coast to implant the next generation device. Manatee Memorial was already the first hospital in the region to offer the Watchman™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Implant in 2016 and has performed more than 450 of those procedures.

The WATCHMAN FLX™ Left Atrial Appendage (LAAC) Implant
The WATCHMAN FLX™ Left Atrial Appendage (LAAC) Implant Device

The WATCHMAN technology, which has been implanted in more than 100,000 patients worldwide, closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) to keep harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and over time, patients may be able to stop taking blood thinners.

The WATCHMAN FLX LAAC device is implanted through a small needle puncture in the groin area. It looks like a tiny parachute made from flexible mesh and springy wires and is guided through a catheter into a patient’s heart, where it can filter potential blood clots and prevent possible stroke. The newest version of the implant has an updated design to help treat more patients safely and effectively to ensure the best long-term outcomes, according to Boston Scientific, the developer of the WATCHMAN technology.


Patient Story: Michael McIntyre

Michael Mclntyre had the Watchman procedure at the Valve Institute. Hear his story:


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Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Risk

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans have atrial fibrillation (AF), which starts as an irregular and rapid heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. The rhythm change may begin slowly but becomes stronger and more constant as time goes on. AF doesn't always have symptoms. Many people don't even know they have it. Others may experience one or more of the symptoms below:

  • Feeling faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

Physicians often treat AF with blood thinning medications, including aspirin or warfarin to prevent stroke. AF ablation may help the heart rate slow or help to control the heart rhythm. The WATCHMAN FLX is an alternative to taking the blood thinners.

Atrial Fibrillation Risk Factors

As you age, you may increase your risk for AF. You should discuss AF with your physician if you have one or more of the risks below:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Enlargement of the left side of the heart chambers
  • European ancestry
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased age
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Obesity

Is the WATCHMAN FLX Implant right for you?

If you’ve been told you need to take blood thinning medication because you’re at increased risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation, the WATCHMAN FLX Implant could be right for you. The WATCHMAN Implant is a one-time procedure that may allow you to stop taking blood thinners after 45 days.

Structural Heart Program

The Structural Heart Program at Manatee Memorial Hospital is dedicated to patients with aortic stenosis and stroke and bleeding risks associated with atrial fibrillation. The program is part of our Heart and Vascular Center and is located at the hospital. Patients will receive a personalized evaluation from a team of healthcare professionals.

For more information, please call the Structural Heart Program office at 941-708-8064.