Left Atrial Appendage Closure
In patients with atrial fibrillation, abnormal electrical signals occur in the atria (upper chambers of the heart). These signals cause an irregular heartbeat. They keep the atria from contracting, or squeezing, normally. The atria quiver instead. This lowers the amount of blood the heart pushes out each time it beats.
The Left Atrial Appendage and Stroke Risk
The heart has four chambers: two on top and two on the bottom. The left atrium is the upper left chamber of the heart. The left atrial appendage is a pocket-like section in the left atrium of the heart.
If you have atrial fibrillation, your heart does not pump blood normally. This can lead to blood clots, usually in the left atrial appendage. Up to 90% of strokes due to atrial fibrillation occur from blood clots that form in the left atrial appendage. Because of this stroke risk, many people with atrial fibrillation are on an anticoagulant, or blood-thinning medication.
Left Atrial Appendage Treatment to Reduce Stroke Risk
Closing the left atrial appendage can prevent formation of blood clots that may cause a stroke. Treatment devices that close the left atrial appendage include the WATCHMAN FLX™ device and the AtriClip device. These devices decrease the risk of stroke. They may also reduce the need for ongoing medical treatment with blood thinners.
Candidates for Treatment
You may be eligible for left atrial appendage closure treatment if you have atrial fibrillation with risk factors for stroke and you:
- Cannot take blood thinners.
- Have trouble managing your blood thinners.
- Have experienced bleeding while on blood thinners.
During the WATCHMAN FLX procedure, a small device is inserted into the left atrial appendage. This acts as a plug. It stops blood flow, reducing the risk of blood clots and stroke.
The WATCHMAN FLX procedure is minimally invasive. Most patients return home the next day. Patients must use blood thinners for at least 45 days after the procedure. After that, they often can eventually stop taking this medication.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital has been a pioneer of this technology. It was the first hospital in Illinois to implant the original WATCHMAN® device. The WATCHMAN FLX device is a more advanced option.
During the AtriClip procedure, a small device is inserted around the outside of the left atrial appendage. It is then closed to seal off the appendage. This stops blood flow and reduces risk of blood clots and stroke.
The AtriClip procedure can be performed as a minimally invasive procedure or as a procedure during an open-heart surgery. Patients must use blood thinners for at least 45 days after the procedure. After that, they often can eventually stop taking this medication.
Meet the Left Atrial Appendage Closure Team
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