Your guide to heart procedures

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Learn what you can expect from your heart procedure at The University of Kansas Health System. Download your guide to heart procedures.

Stroke Risk Reduction

Some people with heart disease may be at a higher risk for stroke because they cannot be on blood thinners. Many times, especially in people with atrial fibrillation, stroke occurs because of clots that form in the left atrial appendage (LAA) – a small pouch that connects and empties into the top chamber of the heart (left atrium). Procedures to seal off the LAA can help reduce the risk of stroke and eliminate the need for blood thinners.

The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City offers a variety of devices and surgical techniques for LAA closure. Our heart doctors often participate in clinical trials to test the safety and effectiveness of LAA closure devices and procedures – making the technology available to patients before anyone else in the region.

To meet with a cardiologist, request an appointment online or call 913-588-1227. Our health system offers the latest options for left atrial appendage closure devices for people in the Kansas City region and beyond.

Innovation in LAA closure devices

The advancements in stroke prevention strategies have greatly improved the quality of life for those with atrial fibrillation. New, sophisticated devices close the LAA permanently and reduce the chances of blood clots and stroke. These treatments also help eliminate the need for long-term anticoagulant drugs – freeing patients from the unwanted side effects they carry.

Technology and equipment

    WATCHMAN™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device. Photo courtesy of Boston Scientific.
  • WATCHMAN™: This permanent heart implant is an alternative to the lifelong use of the blood thinner warfarin to reduce the risk of stroke. The WATCHMAN is used in people with atrial fibrillation that is not related to or caused by a heart valve problem. With this treatment, you'll be able to avoid side effects related to warfarin, as well as avoid regular blood tests and food and drink restrictions.

    The implant is placed through a minimally invasive, one-time procedure. It's placed inside the heart and isn't visible outside of the body. In clinical trials, 92% of patients were able to stop taking warfarin just 45 days after their procedure.

  • AMPLATZER™ Amulet™: This stroke prevention device offers the broadest range of shapes and sizes on the market to accommodate your anatomy. It features a unique design to completely seal the LAA and comfortably conform to your body. This device has been used successfully in Europe, and recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    Like WATCHMAN, the Amulet can be inserted using a minimally invasive procedure.

  • LARIAT Suture Delivery Device
    LARIAT® Suture Delivery Device. Photo courtesy of SentreHEART.
  • LARIAT®: The LARIAT is a lasso-shaped device that is slipped around the LAA and tightened to close it off. This will immediately and permanently close the LAA and prevent future blood clots from forming. Over time, the LAA will shrivel and disappear without blood flow. LARIAT is different in that it does not leave behind any man-made hardware inside your heart chambers.

    Like both WATCHMAN and Amulet, the LARIAT is a catheter-based procedure that is performed using minimally invasive surgery.

Why choose us

  • Our surgeons are often the first in the Kansas City region to offer new, innovative technology for LAA closure.

  • We are one of the few hospitals in the area offering nonsurgical closures for PFO (patent foramen ovale) and ASD (atrial septal defect).

  • Our heart surgeons work with other specialists as a team. Physicians and professionals from all areas collaborate and coordinate each patient's care for the best possible outcome.

  • Our patients experience outcomes comparable with the very best programs in the United States.

  • Our surgeons are at the forefront of innovation. They have specialized expertise in minimally invasive heart procedure and participate in several unique clinical trials.

What to expect

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and are unable to tolerate blood thinners, or if you need your LAA closed due to other problems, your care team might recommend an LAA closure device. You will discuss your options for treatment as well as the benefits and risks of each procedure.

Once you and your heart team decide that LAA closure is the right stroke-prevention strategy for you, you may need to take certain preparations. This could include tests or diet or medication restrictions. Usually, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery.

If you are having a minimally invasive procedure, you will likely be able to return home the same day. Please arrange for a friend or family member to drive you to and from the hospital, as you will be given pain medication and will be unable to drive.

You will likely experience some discomfort following your procedure. This can be controlled with pain medication. Bruising, soreness and inflammation are also common around the area where the catheter was inserted. However, if you experience any of the following, contact your care team:

  • Fainting or dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Numbness, bleeding, swelling, severe pain, coldness or redness at the site of catheter insertion

  • Fever that doesn't subside

Chest pain or discomfort following your procedure should be treated as a medical emergency. If this happens, call 911.

You will be asked to avoid strenuous activity for the first 3 days. Afterward, light walking may be recommended. Most people can resume their daily routine (including exercise) within a few weeks. Ask your doctor about when you can return to work and other normal activities.