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      Surgical Closure of the Left Atrial Appendage – A Beneficial Procedure?


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          Background: Closure of the fibrillating left atrial appendage (LAA) has been recommended during valve surgery to decrease the risk of arterial embolism. However, patients undergoing surgical LAA closure have not systematically been reevaluated for complete LAA obliteration. Methods and Results: During a 12-month period, we studied 6 consecutive patients with paroxysmal (n = 3) or permanent (n = 3) atrial fibrillation who underwent surgical LAA closure at the time of valve surgery. Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) performed 23–159 days (mean 51) postoperatively demonstrated complete LAA closure in only 1 patient. In 5 patients, incomplete LAA closure was found due to disruption of the closure line. The size of the residual LAA orifice ranged from 3 to 20 mm. There was a high flow velocity at the LAA orifice (0.33–2.2 m/s), whereas flow in the LAA body was low (<0.2 m/s). Spontaneous echocardiographic contrast (SEC) in the LAA had newly developed (n = 3) or was much more intense than preoperatively (n = 2). Despite therapeutic anticoagulation 2 patients showed a LAA thrombus which had not been present on the preoperative TEE, and 1 patient with SEC suffered a stroke 4 weeks after attempted LAA closure. Conclusion: Surgical LAA closure was incomplete in most patients, resulting in blood stagnation and an increased likelihood of clot formation. Incomplete surgical LAA closure, therefore, may promote rather than reduce the risk of stroke. Intraoperative TEE is mandatory to verify complete LAA obliteration.

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          Most cited references23

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          Appendage obliteration to reduce stroke in cardiac surgical patients with atrial fibrillation.

          Left atrial appendage obliteration was historically ineffective for the prevention of postoperative stroke in patients with rheumatic atrial fibrillation who underwent operative mitral valvotomy. It is, however, a routine part of modern "curative" operations for nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation, such as the maze and corridor procedures. To assess the potential of left atrial appendage obliteration to prevent stroke in nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation patients, we reviewed previous reports that identified the etiology of atrial fibrillation and evaluated the presence and location of left atrial thrombus by transesophageal echocardiography, autopsy, or operation. Twenty-three separate studies were reviewed, and 446 of 3,504 (13%) rheumatic atrial fibrillation patients, and 222 of 1,288 (17%) nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation patients had a documented left atrial thrombus. Anticoagulation status was variable and not controlled for. Thrombi were localized to, or were present in the left atrial appendage and extended into the left atrial cavity in 254 of 446 (57%) of patients with rheumatic atrial fibrillation. In contrast, 201 of 222 (91%) of nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation-related left atrial thrombi were isolated to, or originated in the left atrial appendage (p < 0.0001). These data suggest that left atrial appendage obliteration is a strategy of potential value for stroke prophylaxis in nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation.
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            Surgical left atrial appendage ligation is frequently incomplete: a transesophageal echocardiograhic study.

            This study sought to determine the incidence of incomplete ligation of the left atrial appendage (LAA) during mitral valve surgery. Ligation of the LAA to prevent future thromboembolic events is commonly performed during mitral surgery. However, success in completely excluding the appendage from the circulation has never been systematically assessed. Using transesophageal Doppler echocardiography, we studied 50 patients who underwent mitral valve surgery and ligation of the LAA. Thirty patients were studied immediately postoperative, and 20 patients were studied 6 days to 13 years after surgery. Incomplete ligation was detected by demonstrating a color jet traversing the separation between the left atrial body and appendage. Transesophageal echocardiography detected incomplete LAA ligation in 18 of 50 (36%) patients. The incidence of incomplete ligation was not significantly different between patients studied immediately postoperative and patients studied at various times after surgery. Type of mitral surgery (repair vs. replacement), operative approach (sternotomy vs. port access), left atrial size or degree of mitral regurgitation did not significantly correlate with the incidence of incomplete appendage ligation. However, the power to detect a significant difference in left atrial size was only 64%. Spontaneous echo contrast or thrombus was identified within appendages in 9 of 18 (50%) patients with incomplete ligation, while 4 of these 18 (22%) patients had thromboembolic events. Surgical LAA ligation is frequently incomplete. The similar incidence of incomplete ligation detected immediately postoperative and at various times thereafter suggest that this results from an intraoperative phenomenon rather than from gradual dehiscence of sutures over years. The incidence of incomplete left atrial ligation was unrelated to type of surgery, surgical approach, left atrial size or degree of mitral regurgitation. Residual communication between the incompletely ligated appendage and the left atrial body may produce a milieu of stagnant blood flow within the appendage and be a potential mechanism for embolic events.
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              The left atrial appendage: our most lethal human attachment! Surgical implications.

              To prevent death from atrial fibrillation, a cardiac disease which kills by producing emboli. Atrial fibrillation causes about 25% of strokes and increases stroke rate by five times. Over 90% of these embolic strokes are from clots originating in the left atrial appendage. This study addresses the surgical feasibility of removing the appendage to prevent future deaths in two subcategories of patients. (1) Prophylactic removal during open-heart surgery to study its safety. Theoretically, as these patients age and some develop atrial fibrillation, protection from embolic strokes would already be present. (2) Therapeutic removal in chronic atrial fibrillation patients by means of a thorascopic approach. Its technical feasibility is demonstrated. Its actual stroke prevention potential awaits large studies. Appendectomy has been evaluated three ways. (1) Experimentally, thorascopic appendage removal was performed on 20 goats with endoscopic approach. Late studies showed a cleanly healed atrial closure after stapling, and no puckering of tissue as seen with the purse-string approach. (2) Safety of human appendectomy was demonstrated in 437 patients (1995-1997). Routine appendectomy was performed during open-heart surgery. Forty-three appendages were stapled, 391 sutured off. (3) Thorascopic appendectomy in seven patients with chronic atrial fibrillation has been successfully accomplished as an isolated surgical procedure. Stapling or suture closure provides a much cleaner, non-puckered suture line than a purse string. In prophylactic removal, no acute bleeding occurred. No late problems have been identified. Endoscopic removal of the appendage has been successful in seven atrial fibrillation patients. The left atrial appendage is a lethal source of emboli in atrial fibrillation patients. As patients age and often develop atrial fibrillation, prophylactic appendage removal whenever the chest is open is suggested as a method to prevent future strokes. In chronic atrial fibrillation patients, appendectomy can be done with a mini-thorascopic approach. Further studies are planned to demonstrate the effectiveness of appendectomy in preventing strokes in the chronic fibrillating patients.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                September 2005
                15 September 2005
                : 104
                : 3
                : 127-132
                aKlinik für Kardiologie, Sana Kliniken Lübeck GmbH und bKlinik für Herzchirurgie, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck, Deutschland; cII. Medizinische Abteilung, Krankenanstalt Rudolfstiftung, Wien, Österreich
                87632 Cardiology 2005;104:127–132
                © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel

                Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug. Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

                : 14 December 2004
                : 27 December 2004
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 1, References: 26, Pages: 6
                General Cardiology

                General medicine,Neurology,Cardiovascular Medicine,Internal medicine,Nephrology
                Left atrium,Atrial appendage,Embolism,Transesophageal echocardiography,Heart surgery,Stroke,Atrial fibrillation


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