If you have atrial fibrillation, you may be eligible for a heart procedure called left atrial appendage closure. This procedure can reduce your risk of stroke and eliminate the need to take blood thinning medications.
Your Left Atrial Appendage
Your left atrial appendage (LAA) is located in your heart. It is a windsock shaped pouch high in the left atrium. If you have atrial fibrillation, blood can pool and clot in the LAA.
If a blood clot were to travel from your heart to your brain, you could have a stroke. Patients with atrial fibrillation are at an increased risk of stroke. You may take blood thinning medications to reduce this risk.
If you have atrial fibrillation, your doctor may recommend the catheter-based left atrial appendage closure, also called the Watchman procedure. This procedure usually involves general anesthesia but does not require open heart surgery. The procedure takes place in a catheterization room in the cardiovascular cath lab.
A highly-trained cardiologist inserts the Watchman implant into a vein in your leg. The doctor uses a flexible tube, called a catheter, to navigate the implant to your heart.
The Watchman device is made of permeable polyester fabric and a nitinol frame. These materials are safe and routinely used in medical implants.
Once in the right location, your doctor will release the implant so that it seals off your left atrial appendage. Your own heart tissue will slowly grow over the implant. Most patients are able to stop taking blood thinners a few months after the procedure.
The Watchman procedure does not eliminate atrial fibrillation. You will likely need to continue your heart medications as directed by your doctor.
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