After a left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) procedure, patients will need continued follow-up care. If you undergo LAAC, regardless of the device used, you will likely be admitted to the hospital for a short stay. Your medical team will schedule a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) test, which checks to make sure the LAA is completely closed and also rules out the presence of any remaining blood clots.
Although a LAAC is a minimally invasive procedure, the medical team will want to make sure there are no complications. In most cases, you’ll stay overnight in the hospital following the procedure. However, if you’re having a LAAC procedure as part of open-heart surgery for blocked arteries or leaky heart valves, then you may spend a few days in the hospital. In either case, your medical team will explain the procedure in detail.
Home care after a LAAC
You may feel some discomfort in the days and weeks after the procedure. Your doctor will explain which symptoms and side effects are normal. In general, if you’ve had the nonsurgical LAAC LARIAT or WATCHMAN procedure, it’s normal to have bruising and soreness in the upper leg, around the area where the catheter was inserted. There may also be some inflammation in the sac that surrounds your heart, which may cause sharp chest pain especially when taking deep breaths.
Some symptoms or side effects are not normal, however. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Faintness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Problems around the area in your upper leg where the catheter was implanted: numbness or coldness, severe pain, bleeding, swelling, or redness
- A fever that will not go away
If you’ve had open-heart surgery, your recovery process will take longer, typically between four and 12 weeks.
Medications after a LAAC
If you’ve had LAAC, your doctor may prescribe you blood-thinning medications for a period of time. The team will also recommend taking aspirin indefinitely to reduce the risk of blood clots forming anywhere else in your heart and blood vessels.
Activity after a LAAC
You’ll be asked not to drive until at least 24 hours after general anesthesia. In addition, your doctor will ask you to avoid intense physical activity or strenuous exercise of any kind for at least three days. Intense activity and strenuous exercise include heavy lifting, climbing stairs, running, riding a bicycle, doing heavy housework or house projects, and engaging in sexual activity.
As always, you should check with your doctor about when you can resume activities like bending, squatting, and participating in an exercise program. You may be asked to incorporate some very light exercise into your day for a short time after your LAAC procedure. This may include short walks (5-10 minutes) several times per day. Your doctor may have additional precautions regarding bathing (which can lead to getting the catheter insertion site or your surgical incision wet) immediately following the procedure, so be sure to ask.
Returning to work after a LAAC
Ask your doctor about when you should expect to be able to return to your job or to any normal activities such as volunteer work. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your situation based on your physical health, the kind of work you do, and other factors.
While a LAAC procedure is used to reduce the risk of stroke in people who have Afib, it doesn’t stop the irregular heartbeat of Afib from occurring. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan for your Afib.