If you are considering a left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) procedure to reduce your stroke risk, you are likely to have many questions. Ask your medical team to answer every one. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of common questions and some background that may make it easier for you to discuss your treatment options with your medical team.
Will LAA Closure Change the Function of My Heart?
No. Closing off the left atrial appendage (LAA) does not change or damage the heart. In fact, the left atrial appendage does not play a vital role in the function of the heart at all. In closing off the LAA, the function of the heart is unaffected, but the risk of blood clots is significantly lessened. In this respect, closure of the LAA is something like the removal of the appendix or the wisdom teeth – a surgery that has a beneficial effect but does not have any negative effect.
Will I Be Awake During LAA Closure?
No. LAA closure procedures are performed with general anesthesia. You will be asleep through the entire procedure and will wake up after the procedure is completed, in your hospital’s recovery area.
How Soon Will I Be Able to Go Home After LAA Closure?
In most cases, you will have to stay overnight in the hospital following your LAAC procedure. Following the procedure, you will have a test called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), which checks to make sure the closure is complete and also rules out the presence of any remaining blood clots. More information about TEE is available here.
Will I Be Able to Stop Taking Blood-Thinner Medications (Anticoagulants) After LAA Closure?
Not right away. After an LAA closure procedure, your medical team will probably continue prescribing your blood-thinner medications for several weeks. It is important that you take these (and all) medications as prescribed until your medical team is certain that your body has recovered from the procedure and the success of the procedure is confirmed. If you had an LAA closure device (WATCHMAN or Amplatzer Cardiac Plug) implanted, then your doctor will want to be sure your body is tolerating it. Your team may also recommend taking aspirin indefinitely to reduce the risk of blood clots forming anywhere else in your heart and blood vessels.
Questions to Ask About LAA Closure and YOU
In addition to these general questions about LAAC, you and your family are likely to have many questions about your specific situation. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of questions you may want to take with you to your next appointment. You can download and print “Questions to Ask Your Doctor About LAAC” here.
If you are considering a LAA closure procedure, be sure to visit the SecondsCount Left Atrial Appendage Closure Center, including the downloadable list of Questions to Ask Your Doctor About LAAC.