JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

The WATCHMAN left atrial appendage closure device for atrial fibrillation

Sven Möbius-Winkler, Marcus Sandri, Norman Mangner, Phillip Lurz, Ingo Dähnert, Gerhard Schuler
Journal of Visualized Experiments: JoVE 2012 February 28, (60)
22395336
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, affecting an estimated 6 million people in the United States (1). Since AF affects primarily elderly people, its prevalence increases parallel with age. As such, it is expected that 15.9 million Americans will be affected by the year 2050 (2). Ischemic stroke occurs in 5% of non-anticoagulated AF patients each year. Current treatments for AF include rate control, rhythm control and prevention of stroke (3). The American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and European Society of Cardiology currently recommended rate control as the first course of therapy for AF (3). Rate control is achieved by administration of pharmacological agents, such as β-blockers, that lower the heart rate until it reaches a less symptomatic state (3). Rhythm control aims to return the heart to its normal sinus rhythm and is typically achieved through administration of antiarrhythmic drugs such as amiodarone, electrical cardioversion or ablation therapy. Rhythm control methods, however, have not been demonstrated to be superior to rate-control methods (4-6). In fact, certain antiarrhythmic drugs have been shown to be associated with higher hospitalization rates, serious adverse effects (3), or even increases in mortality in patients with structural heart defects (7). Thus, treatment with antiarrhythmics is more often used when rate-control drugs are ineffective or contraindicated. Rate-control and antiarrhythmic agents relieve the symptoms of AF, including palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue (8), but don't reliably prevent thromboembolic events (6). Treatment with the anticoagulant drug warfarin significantly reduces the rate of stroke or embolism (9,10). However, because of problems associated with its use, fewer than 50% of patients are treated with it. The therapeutic dose is affected by drug, dietary, and metabolic interactions, and thus requires detailed monitoring. In addition, warfarin has the potential to cause severe, sometimes lethal, bleeding (2). As an alternative, aspirin is commonly prescribed. While aspirin is typically well tolerated, it is far less effective at preventing stroke (10). Other alternatives to warfarin, such as dabigatran (11) or rivaroxaban (12) demonstrate non-inferiority to warfarin with respect to thromboembolic events (in fact, dabigatran given as a high dose of 150 mg twice a day has shown superiority). While these drugs have the advantage of eliminating dietary concerns and eliminating the need for regular blood monitoring, major bleeding and associated complications, while somewhat less so than with warfarin, remain an issue (13-15). Since 90% of AF-associated strokes result from emboli that arise from the left atrial appendage (LAA) (2), one alternative approach to warfarin therapy has been to exclude the LAA using an implanted device to trap blood clots before they exit. Here, we demonstrate a procedure for implanting the WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device. A transseptal cannula is inserted through the femoral vein, and under fluoroscopic guidance, inter-atrial septum is crossed. Once access to the left atrium has been achieved, a guidewire is placed in the upper pulmonary vein and the WATCHMAN Access Sheath and dilator are advanced over the wire into the left atrium. The guidewire is removed, and the access sheath is carefully advanced into the distal portion of the LAA over a pigtail catheter. The WATCHMAN Delivery System is prepped, inserted into the access sheath, and slowly advanced. The WATCHMAN device is then deployed into the LAA. The device release criteria are confirmed via fluoroscopy and transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and the device is released.

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