U-M offers a breakthrough in AFIB treatment:  the minimally-invasive WATCHMAN™ device

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is among the first heart centers in the nation to use the WATCHMAN™ Left Arial Appendage Closure Device, a first-of-its-kind implant to help prevent stroke among patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.


Watchman Device Implanted

With stroke being one of the most feared consequences of atrial fibrillation (Afib), the minimally invasive WATCHMAN™ device by Boston Scientific has proved to be a viable alternative to traditional blood-thinning medications such as warfarin.

The WATCHMAN™ closes off the left atrial appendage where harmful blood clots can form and then enter the bloodstream, causing a stroke. By closing off the left atrial appendage, the risk of stroke and other systemic embolization may be reduced.

Watchman Device

Patients who come to the Frankel CVC Arrhythmia Program are evaluated by our team of specialists to determine their eligibility for the WATCHMAN™ device.

For eligible patients, doctors insert a catheter through a leg vein and into the patient’s heart, and then deploy the WATCHMAN™ device to seal off the left atrial appendage sack. Following the procedure, patients typically need to remain in the hospital for 24 hours. Most patients will be able to discontinue the use of blood thinners after 45 days.

In clinical trials, the WATCHMAN™ device, developed by Boston Scientific, was comparable to warfarin in providing protection from disabling stroke, hemorrhagic stroke and cardiovascular death.

The U-M Arrhythmia Program 

The Arrhythmia Program at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center is an internationally renowned referral center for the management of complex arrhythmias. Each year our team of heart specialists performs a high volume of ablations and device procedures. Along with the Center for Arrhythmia Research, we are leaders in the treatment of the most challenging and prevalent heart rhythm conditions.

The U-M Electrophysiology and Cardiac Arrhythmia Services

U-M’s Cardiac Electrophysiology Services focus on the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms in adults. Abnormal heart rhythms result from problems with the heart’s electrical system. Symptoms that can result from this type of problem include palpitations, skipped beats, very fast heart rates, or heart racing, dizziness and/or fainting.

The electrophysiology (EP) lab at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is one of the preeminent facilities for EP in the United States. “We have been a pioneer and leader for many of the techniques that have improved outcomes in patients with complex and difficult-to-treat arrhythmias, with a comprehensive focus on the patient, and we have had excellent outcomes,” says Hakan Oral, M.D., director of Cardiac Electrophysiology.

Whether patients are referred for atrial fibrillation (AF), paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias or for cardiac implantable devices such as ICDs, pacemakers, cardiac resynchronization therapy or other devices for prevention of stroke in patients with AF, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center is well prepared to offer optimal therapeutic options.

AF is the most common sustained arrhythmia, with surging incidence and prevalence rates over the past two decades. This increase has been particularly steep in the United States, which has one of the highest incidence rates on a per-capita basis in the world. AF places patients at increased risk for thromboembolic events, stroke, heart failure and death.

“AF, and arrhythmias in general, are complex disorders with a broad array of presentations and variability in response to treatment,” explains Dr. Oral. “We have a high likelihood of restoring and maintaining sinus rhythm; however, the best choice for one may not be the best choice for another. Key to the success is being able to tailor the therapy for each patient and offering optimal treatment options for each patient.”

For AF, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service has been one of the pioneers and a leader in ablation of AF and other arrhythmias—specifically ventricular arrhythmias—and has helped to move the field forward. “AF, and ventricular arrhythmias in general, has been a rapidly expanding field, and it is important for the clinicians who first see these patients to understand that there are advanced treatment options,” says Dr. Oral. “There are many opportunities to help these patients.”

The Cardiac Arrhythmia Service has nine faculty clinical cardiac electrophysiologists with substantial expertise and experience in their fields, both in clinical care and research. Drs. Fred Morady, Frank Bogun, Aman Chugh, Frank Pelosi, Thomas Crawford, Rakesh Latchamsetty, Hamid Ghanbari, Ryan Cunnane and Oral have collectively contributed over 500 peer-reviewed studies in advancing the field of electrophysiology over the last decades.

In addition to its faculty, a major strength of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service is the dedicated team of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, technologists and staff who help to deliver ideal patient experiences and play a critical role in this clinical mission.

The Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center also plays an important role in teaching and training the next generation of electrophysiologists who have gone on to start and lead arrhythmia programs around the world.

For patient referrals 24 hours a day, call M-Line at 800-962-3555.