Physician, patient and daughter in hospital room

For all the Right Reasons

Reducing your risk of stroke is only part of the story.
"I've got a new lease on life that I never imagined would be possible."
Ingrid Lenz, WATCHMAN recipient

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib or AF, is a common kind of irregular heartbeat. Learn about types of AF, symptoms and risks, and treatment for AFib, below.

Non-Valvular Atrial Fibrillation vs Valvular Atrial Fibrillation

There are two main types of atrial fibrillation: valvular and non-valvular. Valvular AF refers to atrial fibrillation that is caused by a heart valve problem. Examples of a heart valve problem include a narrow or leaking valve, or a valve repair or replacement.1,2

Non-valvular AF (sometimes called NVAF) refers to atrial fibrillation that is not caused by a heart valve problem. 
Non-valvular atrial fibrillation is the most common type of AF.1,2

While treatment options may be different for non-valvular and valvular atrial fibrillation, the effects of the disease are often the same.1,2 To better understand these effects, it’s helpful to know a little about how your heart works.

Already know the basics of AF?

If you’re looking for information about the risk of stroke with atrial fibrillation and what you can do about it, start here ►

WATCHMAN and Non‑Valvular AF

WATCHMAN is for people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation who need an alternative to oral anticoagulants (OAC) to reduce their stroke risk.

How Does Atrial Fibrillation Affect the Heart?

How Does Atrial Fibrillation Affect the Heart?

Your heart is divided into four chambers. The two small upper chambers are called the right and left atria. The two larger lower chambers are called the right and left ventricles. With each beat of your heart, blood is pumped to and from the other parts of your body.3,4

The pumping is controlled by your heart’s electrical system. Normally, the electrical signal that tells your heart to beat comes from the sinoatrial node, or SA node, in the right atrium. It keeps your heart beating in a regular rhythm: a rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, in the average adult at rest.3

But during atrial fibrillation, electrical signals come from several areas in the atria. These disorganized signals cause the atria to quiver rapidly and irregularly. AF keeps the atria and ventricles from working together properly.3

Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation: Electrocardiogram (ECG)

If you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation, your doctor may order an electrocardiogram (ECG, sometimes called an EKG). An electrocardiogram records the electrical activity of your heart through sensors placed against the skin.3

A reliable way to diagnose AF is to record an electrocardiogram during an episode of atrial fibrillation. But AF episodes can be unpredictable, so an ECG recorded at your doctor’s office may appear to be normal.4

If this happens, your doctor may ask you to wear a portable ECG monitor to record your heart’s electrical signals over a period of time. Your doctor will then analyze the monitor recordings to determine if you have atrial fibrillation.3,4

Health Risks of Atrial Fibrillation

People with untreated atrial fibrillation may be at greater risk for stroke than people with normal heart rhythms. Because blood does not flow through the atria regularly, blood clots may form in the heart. If a blood clot escapes from the heart, it can travel through the bloodstream to the brain and cause a stroke.3

Untreated AF may lead to other problems besides stroke. Talk to your doctor about the different risks that AF may pose to your health.

brain illustration

A blood clot that travels to the brain can cause a stroke

The WATCHMAN Option

If you’ve been diagnosed with non-valvular atrial fibrillation and you need an alternative to the AF treatment, warfarin, find out about this one-time procedure.

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

People with AF may experience one or more of the following symptoms3:

  • Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the chest)
  • Lack of energy, feeling tired
  • Dizziness, or a feeling of faintness or light-headedness
  • Chest discomfort (pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest)
  • Shortness of breath

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

There are a number of different treatment options for atrial fibrillation. Your doctor will help you choose an AF treatment plan based on your heart’s rhythm, your symptoms, and any other medical conditions you may have. The goals of treatment for atrial fibrillation may include restoring a normal heart rhythm, controlling your heart rate, and/or reducing your stroke risk.3

To reduce your risk of stroke, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications that can reduce the formation of blood clots. However, there are reasons that some people do not take blood thinners long term.5 For these people, the WATCHMAN Implant may be an option. 

Every person with atrial fibrillation has different needs. If you’ve been diagnosed with AF, talk to your doctor about the AF treatment options available to you. Your doctor will help you understand the risks and benefits associated with each option. Together you can choose the treatment that is right for you.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or if you’ve had symptoms of AF, here are some questions to ask your cardiologist:

  • What is the cause of my atrial fibrillation?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • Can a procedure restore my heart rhythm?
  • Should I take medicine to control my heart rate?
  • What treatment options can reduce my stroke risk?
  • What are the risks and benefits of these treatment options?
  • What is the long-term effect of AF on my heart? 

If you’re already being treated for AF and you need an alternative to blood thinners, find out if WATCHMAN could be right for you. 

Answer a few questions and get a customized guide

The average person with AFib is 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat.5 Learn more about the AFib-stroke connection.

Go To: AF and Stroke Risk

WATCHMAN is for people with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem who need an alternative to oral anticoagulants. 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.

CAUTION: The law restricts these devices to sale by or on the order of a physician. Indications, contraindications, warnings and instructions for use can be found in the product labeling supplied with each device. Information for the use only in countries with applicable health authority product registrations.

Content of this website is for Information Purposes only and not meant for product promotion or medical diagnostic. This information does not constitute medical or legal advice, and BSC makes no representation or warranty regarding this information or its completeness, accuracy or timeliness.

Accordingly, BSC strongly recommends that you consult with your physician on all matters pertaining to your health or to address any questions.

References

  1. Fauchier L, Philippart R, Clementy N, et al. How to define valvular atrial fibrillation? Arch Cardiovasc Dis. 2015;108:530-539. 
  2. Molteni M, Polo Friz H, Primitz L, et al. The definition of valvular and non-valvular atrial fibrillation: results of a physicians’ survey. Europace. 2014;16:1720-1725. 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Atrial fibrillation (Afib). http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/arrhythmia/atrial-fibrillation-afib. Published May 2015. Accessed August 25, 2016. 
  4. Harvard Health Publications. Atrial fibrillation. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/atrial-fibrillation-common-serious-treatable. Harvard University Medical School. Published November 2011. Accessed August 25, 2016. 
  5. National Stroke Association. Making the Afib-Stroke Connection. https://www.stroke.org/sites/default/files/resources/Afib-Connection%20for%20hcp.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed September 1, 2016