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AFib and Stroke Risk


Heart illustration

About AFib & Stroke Risk

The average person with atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat.1 Here’s why: 

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AFib can decrease the heart’s pumping capacity by as much as 30%.2 Because blood isn’t pumped out of the heart normally, it’s easier for blood cells to stick together and form clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA).2,3

In people with AFib not caused by heart valve problems (the most common type of AFib), more than 90% of stroke-causing clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA.3 When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, it can cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke.1,4

Proper treatment can help you reduce your risk of stroke.

Learn about your options

To better understand AFib, it helps to know a little about how your heart works. Your heart has an electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. In a healthy heart, the electrical signals produce a steady heartbeat. The heart contracts and pumps blood normally.4

With AFib, the electrical signals are disorganized. Atrial fibrillation happens when the top two chambers of the heart, the atria, beat rapidly and irregularly (fibrillate). AFib affects how well your heart pumps blood, which in turn affects your stroke risk.4

Learn about treatment options for reducing your risk of stroke


WATCHMAN Device image

Reducing Your Risk

Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, are an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with AFib not caused by heart valve problems.1 Common blood thinners include warfarin (also known as Coumadin®), Eliquis®, Pradaxa®, Xarelto®, and Savaysa®.

For people who need an alternative to blood thinners, there are procedures that close off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping. This is how the WATCHMAN Implant works.

Learn about this one-time procedure ►

Most people can take blood thinners for years without serious side effects. But because blood thinners help prevent clots by thinning the blood, they also increase the risk of bleeding.1

Some bleeding events are minor and easily treated, like a cut taking longer than normal to stop bleeding. In other cases, bleeding can be serious and require medical help or blood transfusions. Sometimes, the bleeding can be life-threatening, such as when bleeding in the brain causes a stroke.

When considering your treatment options, your cardiologist will weigh your risk of a stroke against your risk of a serious bleeding problem. These risks depend on several factors—for some people the risk of bleeding is higher than for others.1

If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation, or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, WATCHMAN may be right for you.

Learn about this alternative to blood thinners ►

It’s important to understand that, like blood thinners, WATCHMAN does not cure AFib. But it does offer people with AFib not caused by heart valve problems a potentially life-changing alternative to taking daily blood thinners long term.

The WATCHMAN Alternative

Get a quick guide on WATCHMAN that you can share with your doctor or loved one.

WATCHMAN is the only FDA-approved implant proven to safely and effectively lower stroke risk in people with AFib not caused by heart valve problems.

WATCHMAN is for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem who need an alternative to warfarin. This website is intended to provide patients and caregivers with some information about the WATCHMAN Implant. It may help prepare you for talking to your doctor about your options for reducing stroke risk.

Important Safety Information

The WATCHMAN Device is a permanent implant designed to close the left atrial appendage in the heart in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke.

With all medical procedures there are risks associated with the implant procedure and the use of the device. The risks include but are not limited to accidental heart puncture, air embolism, allergic reaction, anemia, anesthesia risks, arrhythmias, AV (Arteriovenous) fistula, bleeding or throat pain from the TEE (Trans Esophageal Echo) probe, blood clot or air bubbles in the lungs or other organs, bruising at the catheter insertion site, clot formation on the WATCHMAN™ Closure Device, cranial bleed, excessive bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, groin puncture bleed, hypotension, infection/pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary edema, pulmonary vein obstruction, renal failure, stroke, thrombosis and transient ischemic attack. In rare cases death can occur.

Be sure to talk with your doctor so that you thoroughly understand all of the risks and benefits associated with the implantation of the WATCHMAN Device.


  1. National Stroke Association. Making the Afib-Stroke Connection. Published 2012. Accessed September 1, 2016.
  2. Harvard Medical Publications. Atrial fibrillation. Harvard University Medical School. Published November 2011. Accessed August 25, 2016. 
  3. Blackshear JL, Odell JA. Appendage obliteration to reduce stroke in cardiac surgical patients with atrial fibrillation. Ann Thorac Surg. 1996;61:755-759.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Atrial fibrillation. Published May 2015. Accessed August 25, 2016.