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Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion (LAAO)

Reducing Stroke Risk in Atrial Fibrillation 

Atrial fibrillation (AFib), is a kind of abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia. Normally, a specific group of cells begin the signal to start your heartbeat. During AFib, the signal to start the heartbeat is disorganized. This causes the atria (upper chambers of the heart) to quiver or “fibrillate."

The quivering atria can lead to blood pooling, which increases the risk of forming blood clots. These clots can then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. This is why AFib significantly increases the risk for stroke. Read more about AFib.

Due to the increased risk of stroke in patients with AFib, patients are often treated with blood thinners (oral anticoagulants) or left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO) devices to reduce stroke risk.

Treatment Options to Reduce Stroke Risk in Patients with AFib

Blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or the non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (such as Xarelto, Eliquis, Pradaxa, or Savaysa) are usually the first treatments used to minimize the risk for stroke. UC San Diego Health offers an Anticoagulation Clinic where physicians and pharmacists help patients monitor and manage their treatment with warfarin or other anticoagulants.

When blood thinners are not an ideal solution due to side effects, bleeding complications, or patient desire, a left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO) with the Watchman™ implant can be an effective option. Approved by the FDA, this umbrella-shaped device fits in the left atrial appendage to form a barrier against blood clots. This reduces the risk of stroke.

This minimally invasive procedure is led by Jonathan Hsu, MD, MAS, and Ryan Reeves, MD, at UC San Diego Health. The device is inserted through a small tube threaded into the heart via a needle puncture in the femoral vein (in the groin area of the upper leg). Patients usually stay overnight in the hospital.

Placement of the LARIAT™ suture device is another procedure for left atrial appendage occlusion offered at UC San Diego Health.  With this device, the left atrial appendage is tied off by access to both inside and outside the heart. This procedure is being investigated by UC San Diego Health physicians as part of the aMAZE trial to determine whether the procedure may help reduce the risk of recurrent AFib in addition to standard-of-care catheter ablation.

We also offer other procedures to treat AFib, such as catheter ablation and mini-maze.



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