The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a small, ear-shaped sac in the muscle wall of the left atrium (top left chamber of the heart). Until now, it is unclear what function the left atrial appendage performs. In normal- functioning hearts, the heart contracts with each heartbeat, and the blood in the left atrium and LAA is squeezed out of the left atrium into the left ventricle (bottom left chamber of the heart). When a patient has atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulses that control the heartbeat do not travel in an orderly fashion through the heart. Instead, many impulses begin at the same time and spread through the atria. The fast and chaotic impulses do not give the atria time to contract and/or effectively squeeze blood into the ventricles, instead the atria quiver or fibrillate. Because the LAA is a little pouch, blood collects there and can form clots in the LAA and atria. When blood clots are pumped out of the heart, they can cause a stroke.
If you are at risk of developing clots in the left atrium/LAA, our physician may recommend a procedure to seal off your LAA. This can reduce your risk of stroke and eliminate the need to take blood-thinning medication. There are several options and devices available for closure of the LAA. Our physician will talk to you about the best options for your individual needs.
Patient Animation: This Is WATCHMAN in 60 Seconds, Courtesy of Boston Scientific