Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion

A potential lifesaver for a common heart disorder

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you are not alone. Approximately 3 million people in the United States share this common heart disorder with you.

Sanford Heart Hospital provides a minimally invasive procedure that could be a lifesaver for people with atrial fibrillation. The procedure, known as left atrial appendage occlusion, provides a permanent, one-time solution to reduce complications surrounding the disorder – primarily the risk of stroke.

Reducing stroke risk

People with atrial fibrillation have an irregular heartbeat – either too fast or too slow. The disruption makes it difficult for the heart’s upper and lower chambers to work together, increasing the likelihood of blood to pool and dangerous clots to form. Approximately 95 percent of strokes that occur in patients with atrial fibrillation come from blood clots formed in the heart’s left atrial appendage (LAA).

Blood thinning medications are a treatment option, but approximately 40 percent of atrial fibrillation patients are intolerant to this form of therapy. Because people with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke – most of which stem from blood clots in the heart’s left atrial appendage (LAA) – the experts at Sanford recognized a need.

How it works

This procedure gives people another option and Sanford Heart Hospital in Fargo and Sioux Falls are the only locations in the region to offer this therapy.

One catheter, carrying the suture device, is inserted under the patient’s rib cage. The other, which guides the device into place, is inserted in vein in the leg. Once in place, the device places and tightens a loop stitch around the base of the LAA, permanently sealing it off from the rest of the heart.

A successful procedure eliminates the main source of atrial fibrillation-related strokes. It also helps patients avoid potentially serious side effects associated with blood thinning medications and the need for open-heart surgery.

Benefits

  • Patients with AF who cannot take blood thinners have an alternative option
  • Decreases stroke risk without affecting the rest of the heart
  • It is a permanent, one-time solution
  • Minimally-invasive, low risk procedure
  • Patients experience minimal discomfort
  • Patients no longer need frequent medical visits and blood tests, which are required for those taking blood-thinning medications

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Tom Stys, MD, Cardiology

Dr. Stys specializes in cardiology, nuclear and vascular medicine. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate. Highly skilled in cardiac intervention, Dr. Stys believes that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable and advocates for healthy lifestyle choices.

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