Atrial fibrillation (often called AFib) is a heart rhythm problem that gives you the feeling that there is something abnormal about your heartbeat. If you have AFib, you’re at a higher risk of stroke because blood cells can stick together and form clots in the area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). When a 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.
AFib is often treated with blood thinners, but these can come with risks. If you have a lifestyle, occupation or condition that puts you at risk of bleeding, your doctor may suggest an alternative to blood thinners, such as the left atrial appendage occlusion device.
Vassar Brothers Medical Center is the first and only provider in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut to offer the left atrial appendage occlusion device, a permanent implant that reduces the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation who are unable to take blood thinners.
What is the left atrial appendage occlusion device?
The special device forms a barrier against blood clots in the left atrial appendage. In the procedure, our electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists use real-time image guidance and a catheter to implant the device into the left atrium chamber of the heart. The tiny device closes the left atrial appendage, the site where most blood clots form.
What happens during the procedure?
You and your doctor can decide if you are a candidate for the left atrial appendage occlusion device. If you have AFib, you may be eligible if you:
- Have atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems.
- Must take blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life and have been recommended this approach by your doctor.
- Can take warfarin, but have a history of bleeding or are at severe risk of bleeding.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, you’ll take warfarin until your LAA is permanently closed off —usually just 45 days. Over time, heart tissue grows over the device and it becomes a part of the body, eliminating the need for your warfarin.