Background: Percutaneous left atrial appendage (LAA) closure can be an alternative to coumadin treatment in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) at high risk for thromboembolic events and/or bleeding complications. We report the initial experience with this new technique.
Methods: Patients were eligible if they had AF with a high stroke risk (CHADS(2) score >1), and/or contraindication for coumadin therapy. The procedure was performed under general anaesthesia, using biplane fluoroscopy and (3D) transoesophageal echocardiography (TEE) guidance. Patients were discharged on coumadin until a TEE was repeated at 45 days after closure to evaluate LAA occlusion. If LAA occlusion was achieved, oral anticoagulation was discontinued and aspirin started.
Results: Percutaneous LAA closure was performed in 10 patients (50% male, age 61.6 ± 9.6 years). The median CHADS(2) score was 3 (range 2-4), median CHA(2)DS(2)-VASc score 3.5 (range 2-6) and HAS-BLED score 1.5 (range 1-4). Nine patients had a history of stroke and 2 patients had a history of major bleeding while on coumadin. Concomitant pulmonary vein isolation was performed in 9 patients. The device was successfully placed in all patients within a median of 56 min (38-137 min). Asymptomatic catheter thrombus occurred in one patient. At 45-day follow-up, no thromboembolic events occurred, TEE showed minimal residual flow in the LAA in three patients. In one patient the LAA device was dislocated, requiring successful percutaneous retrieval.
Conclusion: Device closure of the LAA may provide an alternative strategy to chronic coumadin therapy in patients with AF and high risk of stroke and/or bleeding complications using coumadin.