Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device: A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce AFib Stroke Risk
How does Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) increase stroke risk?
The average person with atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. That's because 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). 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.
In people with atrial fibrillation 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.
Reducing AFib stroke risk
Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, are an effective way to lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems. But some people need an alternative to blood thinners, because they can increase the risk of bleeding. Some bleeding events are minor and easily treated, like a cut taking longer than normal to stop bleeding. In other cases, the bleeding can be life-threatening, such as when bleeding in the brain causes a stroke.
If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, your doctor may consider an alternative to blood thinners, such as the Left Atrial Appendage Clousure (LAAC) Implant.
Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Implant
LAAC Implant is a permanent implant that offers an alternative to the lifelong use of blood thinners. It's about the size of a quarter and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
LAAC Implant effectively reduces the risk of stroke by permanently closing off the LAA to keep blood clots from escaping. LAAC Implant can eliminate the bleeding risks and regular blood tests and food-and-drink restrictions that come with blood thinners.
How is WATCHMAN implanted?
LAAC Implant is implanted into your heart in a one-time procedure. To implant the LAAC, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube, as done in a standard stent procedure. Your doctor then guides the implant into your heart's LAA. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about an hour. Patients commonly stay in the hospital overnight and leave the next day.
After the procedure
Following the implant procedure, you'll take a blood thinner for 45 days or until your LAA is permanently closed off. During this time, heart tissue will grow over the implant to form a barrier against blood clots. Your doctor will monitor this process by taking pictures of your heart to see when you can stop taking your blood thinner. Your doctors may change your medication for another few months. After that you will continue to take aspirin on an ongoing basis. A very small number of patients may need to keep taking blood thinners long term.
Is LAAC Implant right for you?
If you have a history of bleeding or a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding, LAAC Implant may be right for you. But like any medical procedure, LAAC Implant comes with risks, so it isn't right for everyone. Your cardiologist will weigh your risk of a stroke against your risk of a serious bleeding problem to determine the right treatment for you.
Your first step to finding out if you’re a candidate for LAAC Implant is making an appointment with your cardiologist to discuss your options. To find a cardiologist, visit our Find-A-Doctor page.