COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update Learn More

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

CentraCare care givers have been working around the clock for more than 20 months to care for you, your families and friends during COVID. We are committed to caring for every Minnesotan who needs us, and nothing will prevent us from doing so – even during these never-seen-before times.

The challenge of providing this level of care is that our hospital beds are often full. ERs in all of our hospitals are packed. And our clinical teams are exhausted. Early in the pandemic, our community stepped up in amazing ways to help us. We ask that you again join us in fighting this pandemic together.

How can you help?

  • Please get your COVID vaccines and booster shots. They are proven safe and effective in reducing COVID illness, keeping people out of the hospital, and preventing death.
  • If your situation is not an emergency, please use other care options, including:
  • If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1, or visit the ER.

Together, we can do this. Thank you for your support.

Ken Holmen, MD
President and CEO

Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion (LAAO) with WATCHMAN

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

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 clots can form in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The clots can then break loose and flow into the bloodstream, where they may travel to the brain causing a stroke.

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. They also increase the user’s risk of bleeding.

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

The LAAO procedure typically takes less than an hour to perform and a 24-hour stay in the hospital.

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

Why choose our program for LAAO?

  • The FDA approved LAAO with WATCHMAN in 2015, making it available to the public and covered by Medicare and insurance. The CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center has been a leader in bringing this exciting procedure to Central 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 utilizing Echo Pixel’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 atrial fibrillation and significant kidney disease an option for safely undergoing a lifesaving Watchman implant without risk of further kidney damage.
  • Our success has been well recognized, and our cardiologists travel around the country to teach others about the LAAO procedure.
  • Our team works collaboratively with the patient, their families, primary care providers and specialists to provide a treatment option that improves the patient’s lifestyle and protects them from stroke.

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