Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cardiac arrhythmia, is a significant cause of embolic stroke. Although systemic anticoagulation is the primary strategy for preventing the thromboembolic complications of AF, anticoagulants carry major bleeding risks, and many patients have contraindications to their use.
Because thromboembolism typically arises from a clot in the left atrial appendage (LAA), local therapeutic alternatives to systemic anticoagulation involving surgical or percutaneous exclusion of the LAA have been developed. Surgical exclusion of the LAA is typically performed only as an adjunct to other cardiac surgeries, thus limiting the number of eligible patients. Furthermore, surgical exclusion of the LAA is frequently incomplete, and thromboembolism may still occur.
Percutaneous LAA exclusion includes two approaches: transseptal delivery of an occlusion device to the LAA and epicardial suture ligation of the LAA, the LARIAT procedure. In the LARIAT procedure, a pretied snare is placed around the epicardial surface of the LAA orifice via pericardial access. Proper snare placement is achieved with epicardial and endocardial magnet-tipped guidewires. The endocardial wire is advanced transvenously to the LAA apex after transseptal puncture. The epicardial wire, introduced into the pericardial space, achieves end-to-end union with the endocardial wire at the LAA apex. The snare is then placed over the LAA, tightened, and sutured. On the basis of early clinical experience, the LARIAT procedure has a high success rate of LAA exclusion with low risk for complications.
The authors describe the indispensable role of real-time transesophageal echocardiography in the guidance of LAA epicardial suture ligation with the LARIAT device.