by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, February 2015
The heart’s Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) has emerged as an important factor in the source of A-Fib signals. So much so, that doctors and researchers from around the world gathered for a two-day Symposium devoted exclusively to the LAA on February 6-7 at the Marina del Rey Marriott Hotel in Marina del Rey, CA.
Overview—First Impressions & Brief Reports
“Closing Off the LAA Has No Adverse Effects”
This Symposium was unique in that Electrophysiologists, Interventionalists and Surgeons were featured speakers and attendees. Dr. James Cox, inventor of the original Cox Maze operation, both presented a report and participated in a debate “Who Should Perform LAA Occlusion/Exclusion Procedures? A 3-Way Debate with a Surgeon, EP and Interventionalist.” In Dr. Cox’s talk he stated that cutting out the LAA has no adverse effects. This is a very powerful statement coming from someone with his years of experience.
AtriClip In Action
Dr. Cox said that the AtriClip closure device was the safest compared to staples and sutures. We were privileged to see two recorded operations using the AtriClip which were fascinating to watch. The surgeon opened up the pericardium sack and inserted the AtriClip over the LAA. In the first case he used what looked like two pencil eraser probes to poke and prod the LAA into the jaws of the AtriClip.
In the second case the surgeon inserted sutures into the LAA and used them to pull the LAA through the AtriClip opening. Once the AtriClip closed off the LAA, the closure looked very complete and secure. Both surgeons did not sew up and close the pericardium opening they had made to get to the LAA. This was surprising to me, but I later learned that this is standard procedure during such surgery to not close or stitch up the pericardium sack.
Watchman May Win FDA Approval
In my earlier brief reports on the Orlando AF Symposium, based on the recent research and the FDA presentation, I said the Watchman device probably won’t be approved in the US.
I’m happy to say that I am most likely wrong. The Watchman may be approved by the middle of this year. One presenter described how the FDA chairman talked with several people who were going to Canada to have the Watchman device installed. He seemed embarassed that the Watchman was available everywhere in the world but not in the US and said that it has to be approved.
Other doctors I talked with at the LAA Symposium were of the same opinion. Presenters described how clinical trials for other LAA closure devices were on hold so that they could get approved in comparison to the Watchman (Non-Inferiority Trials). Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of the University of Kansas Medical Center said that we are at a “tipping point” for the (A-Fib) industry.
Lariat Live Case
We were privileged to watch a live case from Cedars Sinai in which Dr. Saibal Kar and his colleagues inserted a Lariat device to close off the LAA in a patient. From outside the heart Dr. Kar inserted a magnet-tipped catheter through the diaphragm so that it arrived at the base of the LAA. Then from inside the heart he inserted another magnet-tipped catheter to the base of the LAA where the magnets joined and formed a rope-like structure.
Using this rope-like link he inserted a catheter with the Lariat II device which followed this rope-like link till it reached the LAA. He then unfurled the Lariat snare or noose-like device which he manipulated over the base of the LAA. But there were problems. It was hard to get all the folds or pouches of the LAA in the Lariat snare.
In most Lariat procedures, they use a balloon inside the heart to expand the LAA so that the lariat noose can more easily fit over it. Inserting the Lariat seemed like a somewhat tricky procedure to me, and is certainly more complicated than inserting a Watchman device.
Having to work from both outside and inside the heart and using balloons and catheters with magnet tips isn’t something the average EP or Interventionalist is used to doing. As Dr. Andrea Natale commented, the Lariat procedure needs skill and expertise. Though Dr. Natale didn’t say this, there are few centers and doctors with the experience, skill and expertise necessary to successfully insert the lariat device.
LAA Structures are Different and Unique
Previous research has postulated that the LAA has four basic structures:
1. Chicken-wing (48%)
2. Windsock (19%)
3. Cactus (30%)
4. Califlower (3%)
The Chicken-wing is the easiest to tie off with the Lariat, while the Califlower can be quite difficult. Also, sometimes the LAA is virtually inaccessible, because it is buried behind other heart structures.
Dr. Jacqueline Saw of Vancouver General Hospital certainly surprised me by showing five more different LAA shapes which she named:
5. Elephant trunk
8. Whale’s tail
It seems that every LAA is different and unique in structure, like snowflakes. This may be very important in our understanding of the LAA.
Dr. Shaw also described how the LAA Orifice Opening can have very different shapes:
1. Oval (68.9%)
2. Triangular (7.7%)
3. Foot-like (10%)
4. Waterdrop-like (7.7%)
5. Round (5.7%)
She also described how Cardiac Computed Tomography Angiography [CCTA]) imaging is used to measure the diameter and depth of the LAA. Addition measurements include the internal LAA structures such as lobes, muscle ridges, trebeculations and sharp bends.
These internal structures may influence or hinder the placement of LAA occlusion devices.
CCTA imaging can also be used after an occlusion device (i.e. Lariat or Watchman) is implanted to inspect and detect gaps or leaks.
Last updated: Friday, March 6, 2015