A left atrial appendage closure procedure may be an alternative to taking blood thinners if you have atrial fibrillation (A-fib) that wasn’t caused by a heart valve issue. Stroke caused by blood clots breaking free of the left atrial appendage is a serious risk in these cases.
More than 90% of clots that break loose from the heart and go on to cause strokes start in the left atrial appendage. This small pouch of tissue in the wall of the left atrium doesn’t appear to serve any purpose.
If you can’t take blood-thinning medication such as warfarin because of the bleeding risk, you may qualify for a left atrial appendage closure procedure to implant a device to block off your left atrial appendage, which would prevent stroke-causing clots from forming there.
The Watchman FLX left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) device is an implant that replaces long-term blood thinner use. The Watchman FLX is the next-generation Watchman device and is available in more sizes to fit your unique anatomy.
The Watchman FLX is available in sizes from 20 millimeters (about three-quarters of an inch or the diameter of a penny) to 35 millimeters (almost 1.4 inches) and made from very light and compact materials commonly used in many other medical implants.
Norton Heart & Vascular Institute has been performing Watchman implants since 2016 and has more experience with this treatment than any other hospital system in Louisville or Southern Indiana.
Benefits of a Left Atrial Appendage Closure Procedure
There are many benefits of having a left atrial appendage closure procedure with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute team. They include:
- Reduced risk of stroke from blot clots formed in the left atrial appendage
- Eventual discontinuation of blood thinner, in most cases 45 days after the procedure
- Minimally invasive, usually with no stitches needed
- Short (usually overnight) hospital stay
Who Is a Candidate for the Left Atrial Appendage Closure Procedure?
You may be a candidate if you:
- Have A-fib that is not related to heart valve disease (nonvalvular atrial fibrillation) and are at an increased risk of stroke
- Have a history of major bleeding while taking blood thinners
- Have a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk for bleeding
How Is the Procedure Performed?
A specially trained cardiologist inserts flexible wires (catheters) into a blood vessel in the groin and guides the Watchman FLX device into the heart. The physician sets the implant over the opening of the left atrial appendage to seal it off. Over time, heart tissue grows over the implant. The procedure takes place in an electrophysiology lab under general anesthesia and usually lasts about an hour.
Norton Heart & Vascular Institute has state-of-the-art electrophysiology labs at Norton Hospital and Norton Audubon Hospital where this procedure is performed.