The public health burden of atrial fibrillation (AF) and associated thromboembolic stroke continues to grow at alarming rates. AF leads to a fivefold increase in the risk of stroke. Therefore, stroke prevention remains the most critical aspect of AF management. Current standard of care focuses on oral systemic anticoagulation, most commonly with warfarin and now with newer agents such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban. However, the challenges and limitations of oral anticoagulation have been well documented. Given the critical role of the left atrial appendage (LAA) in the genesis of AF-related thromboembolism, recent efforts have targeted removal or occlusion of the LAA as an alternative strategy for stroke prevention, particularly in patients deemed unsuitable for oral anticoagulation. This paper highlights recent advances in mechanical exclusion of the LAA. The problem of AF and stroke is briefly summarized, followed by an explanation for the rationale behind LAA exclusion for stroke prevention. After briefly reviewing the history of LAA exclusion, we highlight the most promising LAA exclusion devices currently available. Finally, we discuss future challenges and opportunities in this growing field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine