What is a left atrial appendage occluder implant?
During atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart quiver rapidly and their usual pumping action is compromised allowing blood clots to form inside the heart. Over 90% of blood clots tend to form within a blind-ending pocket of the heart called the left atrial appendage. Studies have shown that using a plug device to seal this area of the heart off can lower the risk of stroke. The implant is primarily used for patients who have problems taking blood thinners and do not have rheumatic heart valve problems.
What should I expect?
- This procedure is performed under a general anaesthetic.
- While you are asleep, small incisions are made in the groin and a catheter is passed up through the veins into the heart.
- Continuous ultrasound pictures are created by transoesophageal echocardiography to guide the correct positioning of the equipment within the heart
- A small puncture is made inside the heart and dye is used to best assess how and where the plug should be positioned. The occluder device is then deployed from the catheter.
- Once implanted, the catheters are withdrawn and pressure applied to the incisions. You will be taken to recovery and kept for monitoring overnight. You will be asked to lie still to prevent bleeding.
- You may be required to take blood thinner treatment before and several weeks after the procedure to prevent blood clots forming during the healing period. Your cardiologist will use additional blood thinners during the implant.
How should I prepare for a left atrial appendage occluder implant?
- Do not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to your procedure.
- A CT scan of your heart or transoesophageal echocardiography may be performed before your procedure.
- Make sure you read the consent form and understand the risks involved with this procedure. Please clarify any concerns or queries about this procedure with your cardiologist before signing this form.
What happens after the procedure?
In the first 24 hours after your procedure, it is common to have some minor bruising and discomfort at the incision sites in the groin. You should avoid exercise and heavy lifting for the first few days, and then resume normal activities after the first week. You will receive instructions on a suitable blood thinner treatment.
A further ultrasound test (transoesophageal echocardiogram) will be arranged a few weeks after your procedure to check that the plug has healed satisfactorily.