Christian Allan, MD, electrophysiologist with Diagnostic Cardiology Group, has implanted 38 left atrial appendage closure devices since introducing the treatment to Chattanooga.
"The worst thing about atrial fibrillation [Afib] is stroke," said Christian Allan, MD, an electrophysiologist with Diagnostic Cardiology Group. "If you have Afib, you need to be on a blood thinner to prevent stroke. If you can't be on a blood thinner, you should talk to someone about LAAC."
Hiawassee, Georgia, resident Ralph Grady, a retired auto mechanic and business owner, is a LAAC success story, having received the left atrial appendage closure device after experiencing a mini stroke and undergoing several procedures to treat chronic Afib and chronic congestive heart failure.
Ideally, Ralph would have been prescribed blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke after being diagnosed with chronic Afib, but gastrointestinal bleeding forced him to stop taking the medication.
Blood thinners are the gold standard for stroke prevention in patients with Afib, but the potentially lifesaving medication is not recommended for patients who:
- Have a history of internal bleeding
- Are at risk for falls
- Have lifestyle reasons - for example, a patient whose primary hobby is woodworking - that prohibit the use of blood thinners
“LAAC solves the classic rock-and-a-hard-place decision for Afib patients who cannot take blood thinners because of bleeding issues or the risk of bleeding," Dr. Allan said. "Prior to LAAC, such patients had no option for reducing their risk of stroke. Now, there is a solution, and LAAC has become a very important tool in my practice.”
When Dr. Allan recommended that Ralph consider LAAC to lower his chances of suffering a stroke, Ralph took a leap of faith.
“I put my trust in my doctors," Ralph said. "I had already had a mini-stroke, and I certainly didn't want a full stroke at my age, so I said, 'let's do it.'”
Dr. Allan used LAAC to close Ralph's left atrial appendage - a tube-like outcropping attached to the left atrium of the heart, where blood clots often form in patients with Afib - in April 2017, and Ralph is doing great.
“I didn't feel any discomfort, and everything is working out well,” he said. “I recommend the procedure whole-heartedly.”
First in Chattanooga
Dr. Allan was the first physician in Chattanooga to use LAAC to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with Afib, and to date he has implanted 38 devices in patients who had a need to get off blood thinners.
“The ability to offer a solution to patients who are at such risk is incredibly fulfilling,” Dr. Allan said. “The patient population who benefits from the device is much greater than I think anybody knows.”
Learn more about Afib and how LAAC can reduce your risk of stroke.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s covered by Medicare.
No. Once an electrophysiologist implants LAAC, there is no maintenance.
Implantation requires a minimally invasive procedure that involves a 5-milimeter-in-diameter needle stick in the groin. A single suture at the site of the needle stick is removed the morning after the procedure.
Patients can go out to dinner, the mall, the movies or any other light activity the day they go home. Heavy lifting should be avoided for a couple days.
LAAC device implantation is a minimally invasive procedure, and like all medical procedures, there is some risk associated with it. However, the risk is the same as for any minimally invasive cardiac procedure.
There is an FDA mandated 45-day period during which patients remain on blood thinners after the procedure. After that, an electrophysiologist will determine if it’s safe to go off the blood thinner.