While atrial fibrillation itself is generally not life threatening, it can cause serious side effects. Atrial fibrillation can increase your chances of having a stroke by 500 percent.
At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, we use the latest techniques to reduce your stroke risk. Our team considers all of your heart needs and your long-term health to determine the most effective treatment.
Learn more about atrial fibrillation or about our Stroke Center.
Stroke-Reducing Procedures: Why Choose Us?
Patients with the most challenging arrhythmia conditions travel from around the country to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for our experienced doctors and expert care. We have the skills and resources to care for the sickest patients, offering hope and treatment.
When you come to our Heart & Vascular Center, you receive:
- Advanced technology: We are one of the few heart centers offering three types of stroke-reducing procedures. This range of options enables us to choose the best approach, based on the specific condition and your preferences. We do not need to use a chest incision for these procedures, leading to a shorter and more comfortable recovery.
- Expertise: We combine the latest technology with the expertise and dedication of our doctors. Our team has a depth of experience in stroke-reducing procedures, so we can determine if you will benefit from a procedure and which approach offers you the best outcome.
- Personalized care: Any heart surgery comes with risks. We carefully weigh your stroke risk and other medical issues with the benefits of the different procedures. We always involve you in the decision-making process and make sure you are comfortable with the next steps in your care.
Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Risk
Your chances of having a stroke increase with atrial fibrillation because the condition prevents the heart’s blood from emptying. The blood pools and can form a clot. If the clot breaks loose, it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
Blood most often pools in one of the heart’s upper chambers, in an area called the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA, also called the “stroke sac,” is a thumb-size pouch extending off the chamber.
Removing the LAA results in a lower risk of stroke, because the blood cannot pool there. New developments in stroke-reducing procedures allow us to close off the LAA with a minimally invasive approach, instead of removing it. By closing it off, the blood cannot move into the sack and form a clot.
Stroke-Reducing Procedures We Perform
We are one of the few centers nationwide able to close the left atrial appendage (LAA) with three different procedures, each with its strengths and advantages. We have the resources, technology and skill to help you choose the approach offering the best outcome.
In each LAA-closing procedure, we perform the surgery without having to open the chest. Typically, we offer these procedures to patients who have a high risk for stroke and cannot take a long-term regimen of blood-thinning medication. We work with you to determine the most appropriate procedure:
- LARIAT®: During this percutaneous procedure, we access your heart using an intravenous (IV) needle. We make a knot on a string and use the IV tube to thread it to the heart. We then loop the string over the LAA, tie the knot and squeeze down at the base of the stroke sac, preventing blood from entering the area.
- WATCHMAN™: Another percutaneous procedure, it works by placing a plug-like device in the LAA. It sits at the base of the stroke sac, blocking blood from entering. Unlike with the LARIAT procedure, patients receiving the WATCHMAN must temporarily take blood thinners.
- AtriClip: During this minimally invasive surgery, we make three small incisions in your left chest, underneath the armpit. We place a small clip outside the LAA. The clip squeezes down and blocks the LAA. The AtriClip may provide a good option for patients already receiving a Cox-Maze for atrial fibrillation or undergoing additional heart surgery.
To make an appointment with a Washington University arrhythmia specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.