New Device Reduces Need for Blood Thinners


Palomar Health is offering a new, life-changing procedure for people who experience irregular rhythms and/or are taking blood thinners. Atrial fibrillation often manifests itself with a rapid heart beat (arrhythmia), which can lead to blood clots in the heart, increasing a person’s risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart complications.

One popular method for reducing the risk of blood clotting is to prescribe blood thinners. However, blood thinners come with their own set of risks including major and minor bleeding risks from other medical conditions or falls, complications during surgery, the need to eliminate lifestyle activities that carry a risk of bleeding, higher ongoing costs, daily pill-taking and negative interactions with other drugs.

However, innovations in medical technology have resulted in the development of the Watchman, a small flexible implant device that’s inserted into the heart through a minimally invasive procedure and reduces the need for blood thinners and the accompanying risks.

Navinder Sawhney, MD, a Cardiac Electrophysiologist, was one of the first surgeons to offer the procedure in San Diego County and now performs it at Palomar Medical Center Escondido.

“A lot of people have trouble with blood thinners, and this is a procedure that helps patients get off of them,” Dr. Sawhney said. “It’s really beneficial to a lot of people and I’m glad we’re now able to offer it to people in this region.”

Dr. Sawhney said 25% of people who are supposed to be on blood thinners stop taking them because of excess bleeding, bruising and other complications. For those patients, the Watchman is an excellent alternative.

The procedure takes only about an hour and patients are sent home the next day. The device itself is made from flexible, compact materials commonly used in other medical implants and is about the size of a quarter. Dr. Sawhney uses a wire and catheter to feed the device through your groin to the left atrial appendage inside your heart and then deploys it, like opening an umbrella. Once deployed, it never needs to be replaced.

You can resume most normal activities within 24 hours, with the advice to not engage in strenuous activities for about a week. The procedure has a high success rate, with Dr. Sawhney reporting 98% of his patients are able to stop taking blood thinners.

The device manufacturer, Boston Scientific, reports clinical trials of the device show a 27% reduction in mortality compared to using blood thinners.

To learn more about the procedure and see if you are a good candidate, please visit Dr. Sawhney’s profile on the Palomar Health website or call his office at 760-743-0546.

Dr. Sawhney will be offering a virtual seminar on Tuesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. to share how the procedure works. Registration is required. Signup will be available in February.

Caption: The Watchman is a small, flexible device inserted into the heart to prevent blood clotting.

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