Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion (LAAO) with WATCHMAN and Amulet

Trust the heart and vascular specialists at CentraCare to perform your left atrial appendage closure (LAAO) with WATCHMAN or Amulet.

LAAO is a procedure that reduces the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation (AFib). It is an alternative to blood thinner medication.

Those with AFib are five times more likely to suffer a stroke. For them, blood does not pump out of the top of the heart normally, and blood clots can form in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The blood clots can then break loose and flow into the bloodstream, where they may travel to the brain causing a stroke.

Anatomical illustration of the heart that showcases the aorta, left atrium in fibrillation, left atrial appendage and left ventricle. The image notes that more than 90% of stroke-causing blood clots originate in the left atrial appendage.

To combat this risk of stroke, many people with AFib are prescribed blood thinners like warfarin. However, these medications require a frequent blood test and dietary restrictions. Other blood thinners such as Xarelto and Eliquis may not require frequent blood tests and dietary restrictions, but they also increase risk of bleeding.

For those looking to avoid these types of complications and lifestyle changes, LAAO has been found to be as effective as blood thinners such as warfarin, Xarelto or Eliquis in stroke risk reduction, with less risk of bleeding.

LAAO is an option for people who:

  • Have AFib
  • Have been advised to take blood thinners to reduce their risk of stroke from AFib
  • Have experienced bleeding problems with blood thinners
  • Are at risk for bleeding due to occupation or lifestyle

Your cardiologist will weigh your risk of stroke versus your risk of a serious bleeding problem to determine if LAAO devices may be right for you. We strive to provide our patients in Minnesota and beyond with the latest treatment options.

Need a second opinion for cardiovascular care?
Our cardiologists and surgeons would be happy to talk to you about your options. Our research program and specialty clinics may be able to provide you with opportunities that are unavailable at other facilities.

Many insurance companies cover second opinions. However, you will want to contact your insurance company about your situation. Our financial clearance team can also provide an estimate on any out-of-pocket costs. You can reach them at 320-251-2700, ext. 53129.
When ready to make an appointment for a second opinion, call 320-656-7020. Our care team will assist with next steps.

Why Choose CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center for LAAO?

  • The FDA approved LAAO with the WATCHMAN device in 2015 and with the Amulet device in 2021, making them both available to patients and covered by Medicare and insurance. The CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center has been a designated research site for these devices, making us a leader in bringing these groundbreaking procedures to Minnesota.
  • As one of the world’s largest WATCHMAN implanting sites, we were first in the world to use 4D technology successfully during this procedure.
  • Additionally, we were first in the world to implant a WATCHMAN device utilizing EchoPixel’s 4D hologram technology rather than contrast dye. Since contrast dye can be toxic to the kidneys, especially in patients with preexisting kidney disease, our program now provides people with AFib and significant kidney disease an option for safely undergoing a WATCHMAN device implant without risk of further kidney damage.
  • Our success has been well recognized, and our cardiologists travel around the world to teach others about LAAO procedures.
  • Our team collaborates with patients, their families and primary care providers to provide treatment options that improve patient lifestyles and protect against stroke.
  • Image of the Boston Scientific Watchman device
  • Image of the Abbott Amplatzer Amulet LAA Occluder device

Above: Images of the Boston Scientific Watchman and Abbott Amplatzer Amulet LAA Occluder devices.

How Are the Amulet and WATCHMAN Devices Implanted?

The Amulet and WATCHMAN procedures are minimally invasive. The size and shape of your LAA determines which device is best suited for you. To implant the selected device, your doctor makes a small cut in your upper leg and inserts a narrow tube into a blood vessel. Your doctor then guides the device through the tube to your heart’s LAA. Once the device is placed in the LAA, the doctor removes the tube and closes the insertion site.

What Will Happen After the Device Procedure?

The LAAO procedure typically takes less than an hour to perform and a 24-hour stay in the hospital. Your doctor will give you guidance on when to stop taking blood thinners. In some cases, patients may need to continue taking blood thinners long term. Following the procedure, most patients leave the hospital on antiplatelet therapy (aspirin and Plavix). Aspirin use is typically lifelong with Plavix being discontinued around 6 months post LAAO implant. This is determined by your doctor and follow-up imaging.

If you have questions about our program, we would be happy to assist you. Please call us at 320-293-0750 or email us.

Traveling to Central Minnesota for Care?
Recognizing that patients travel a great distance to receive our nationally recognized care, we make travel easier for you by:
• Providing information about our Gorecki Guest House
• Working with your care team to have prior workups as streamlined as possible
• Scheduling all visits consecutively to reduce travel to our facility
• Coordinating to have all imaging done at one location

Let us know what else we can do to assist with your next visit.