Percutaneous Left Atrial Appendage Closure

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Left atrial appendage (LAA) closure is a rapidly emerging field in stroke prevention for patients with atrial fibrillation. Several percutaneous and surgical devices are now approved worldwide, and many more are in clinical development and being evaluated in research trials. The current most widely used endovascular devices worldwide are the WATCHMAN and Amplatzer Cardiac Plug (Amulet, 2nd generation) devices, which received CE Mark in 2005 and 2008, respectively. In addition, the WATCHMAN device recently received FDA approval in March 2015 in the United States for patients at high-risk of stroke who are suitable for warfarin, and who have appropriate rationale for non-pharmacologic stroke prevention alternative.

Results from several early pre-clinical and clinical research studies have ascertained the safety and efficacy of percutaneous LAA closure in stroke prevention, including randomized controlled trials with the WATCHMAN device that showed superiority in comparison to warfarin. Further pre-clinical and clinical research trials and data are rapidly accumulating with this and other devices. Although these initial randomized trials evaluated patients who are candidates for oral anticoagulation, the current predominant real-world application for this procedure is mostly restricted to patients who have contraindications to anticoagulation. Even this restricted indication have substantial implications on application of this procedure, since over 40% of patients with atrial fibrillation who have guideline indications for anticoagulation are not on anticoagulation because of contraindications, intolerance, or were felt to be poor candidates for anticoagulation. Broader application to patients without these restrictions is anticipated as this procedure and technology matures, and further clinical trial data becomes available.

In summary, LAA closure has evolved to become an important alternative to oral anticoagulation in patients with atrial fibrillation, and is expected to remain a dominant technology for stroke prevention with this prevalent arrhythmia.


Jacqueline Saw

Jacqueline Saw

Educational Objectives

  • Epidemiology of atrial fibrillation and stroke risk
  • Left atrial appendage closure: surgical and percutaneous approaches
  • Randomized controlled trial data with WATCHMAN
  • Percutaneous devices for LAA closure
  • Safety and efficacy of LAA closure

Target Audience

  • Interventional cardiologist
  • Electrophysiologist
  • Cardiologists
  • General internist and family physicians

Faculty Biographies

Jacqueline Saw

Jacqueline Saw

Dr Jacqueline Saw is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Cardiology at the University of British Columbia, Program Director for VGH Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Program and Head for VGH Cardiology Clinical Trials Research. 

Dr Saw obtained her her MD from the University of Ottawa. Her clinical expertise is in management of SCAD (spontaneous artery dissection), FMD (fibromuscular dysplasia) and left atrial appendage closure. Current research interests include spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), antiplatelet therapy, percutaneous coronary intervention, carotid artery stenting, peripheral intervention, left atrial appendage closure, and non-atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.

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Key References

1. Saw J, Lempereur M. Percutaneous Left Atrial Appendage Closure: Procedural Techniques and Outcomes. JACC Cardiovasc Interv 2014;7(11):1205-1220.

2. Price, MA, Valderrabano. Left Atrial Appendage Closure to prevent strokes in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation. Circulation. 2014;130:202-212.

3. Holmes DR, Reddy VY, Turi ZG, et al., for the PROTECT AF Investigators. Percutaneous closure of the left atrial appendage versus warfarin therapy for prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation: a randomised non-inferiority trial. Lancet 2009;374:534–42.

4. Holmes DR Jr, Kar S, Price MJ, et al. Prospective randomized evaluation of the Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure device in patients with atrial fibrillation versus long-term warfarin therapy: the PREVAIL trial. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014;64:1–12.