Left atrial appendage closure: A life-changing procedure for patients with nonvalvular A-fib

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, currently affecting over 5 million people in the U.S. Twenty percent of all strokes occur in patients with A-fib, and A-fib-related strokes are more frequently fatal and disabling. The most common treatment to reduce stroke risk in patients with A-fib is a blood-thinning medication such as warfarin.

However, long-term warfarin use is not well-tolerated by some patients and has increased risks for excessive bleeding, falls, inadequate blood-thinning and an overall risk of being on medication for an extended period of time.

Because of these issues, nearly 50 percent of A-fib patients eligible for warfarin are untreated.

How a left atrial appendage closure device works

The implant closes off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage to keep harmful clots from entering the bloodstream and potentially causing a stroke.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia in a cardiac electrophysiology lab, using a standard percutaneous technique in which a guidewire and vessel dilator are inserted into the femoral vein. The one-time procedure takes about an hour to complete, and patients typically remain in the hospital for 24 hours.

Patients who are right for an implant

  • Have an increased risk for stroke and are recommended for anticoagulation
  • Are suitable for warfarin
  • Have an appropriate reason to seek an alternative to oral anticoagulation (high risk for bleeding, previous history of bleeding, etc.)

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