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Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Now Offers Watchman Implant

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is among the first hospitals in California to offer the Watchman implant for patients with atrial fibrillation who need an alternative to long-term blood thinning medication because of bleeding risks. Newly approved, Watchman is specifically for patients who have atrial fibrillation not related to heart valve disease.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition affecting millions of people in which the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast and with irregular rhythm. 

AFib can cause blood to stick together and clot in the heart’s left atrial appendage. If those clots break loose, they can cause a stroke. An estimated 20 percent of all strokes occur in patients with AFib.

The minimally invasive Watchman procedure seals off the left atrial appendage, which is a thumb-sized sack, so it no longer can cause problems. Within 45 days of a successful Watchman placement, most patients can stop taking the warfarin blood thinner. 

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is the only location on the Central Coast and one of only a select number of locations nationwide to offer the Watchman implant. Cardiologists Dr. Brett Gidney and Dr. Joseph Aragon perform the procedure at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. 

“Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital has a long history of offering structural heart disease treatment and that has paved the way for us to offer this new and groundbreaking Watchman procedure for patients,” said Dr. Aragon, director of the structural heart program and cardiac catheterization lab and chair of the Cardiology Department at Sansum Clinic.

Cardiologists insert the compressed Watchman implant through a vein in the patient’s legs and, with guidance from real-time imaging, thread it through blood vessels to the heart where the implant is expanded to the size of a quarter to close off the left atrial appendage.

It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to put the implant in. Patients spend one night in the hospital as a precaution and typically can return to their normal activities the next day.

The Watchman implant does not cure AFib, and it should not be placed in a patient whose AFib is related to heart valve disease.

“The Watchman Implant is for someone with atrial fibrillation who has decided with their doctor, using sound medical reasoning, that blood thinners are not a good long-term option,” said Gidney.

Watchman received FDA approval in the United States in 2015 and has been approved in Europe since 2005. It has been implanted in more than 10,000 patients and is approved in more than 70 countries around the world.

For more information on the Watchman implant, visit

Maria Zate is the manger of public relations at Cottage Health.


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