Structural Heart and Valvular Disease Program: Left Atrial Appendage

The left atrial appendage is a small, irregularly shaped sac located in the muscle wall of the top left chamber of the heart known as the left atrium. In a properly functioning heart, each time the heart contracts with a heartbeat, the blood in the left atrium and left atrial appendage is squeezed out into the bottom left chamber, known as the left ventricle. In patients with certain conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, the left atrial appendage will not function properly.

Cardiologists at UF Health are highly skilled at effectively treating and managing problems with the left atrial appendage.

Atrial Fibrillation and Left Atrial Appendage Function

When a patient has atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulses that control the heartbeat do not fire in an orderly rhythm. Therefore, the atria cannot contract and effectively squeeze blood into the ventricles. This can cause blood to collect in the left atrial appendage and blood clots can form. When a blood clot is pumped out of the heart, a stroke can occur.

Symptoms of Conditions of the Left Atrial Appendage

Patient with conditions related to the left atrial appendage, such as atrial fibrillation, may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A fluttering feeling in your chest
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue, or excessive fatigue while exercising
  • Rapid and/or irregular heart beat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness in arms and legs

Treating Conditions of the Left Atrial Appendage

A patient with atrial fibrillation is five-to-seven times more likely to have a stroke, so it is important to properly manage this condition. UF Health cardiologists may suggest taking a blood-thinning medication. However, some patients may not be able to take blood-thinning medicines and could benefit from other therapies such as closure of their left atrial appendage.

Closure of the Left Atrial Appendage

If a patient is at risk for developing blood clots in the left atrial appendage and cannot tolerate blood thinners or is at high risk for a fall or bleeding, cardiologists may recommend undergoing a procedure to the left atrial appendage. The closure device is introduced through a large vein in the leg and delivered to the heart. This procedure can help reduce the risk of stroke and a patient may no longer need to take long-term blood-thinning medications.

Why Choose UF Health for Treatment of Conditions of the Left Atrial Appendage?

The internationally recognized heart team experts at the UF Health Cardiovascular Center are leaders in cardiac care, research and education. Our doctors have been leaders in minimally invasive chest and heart surgery for more than two decades. Our cardiothoracic (heart and chest) surgeons are professors and researchers at one of the nation’s largest cardiothoracic training programs as part of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

Our heart team experts, as faculty of the University of Florida Division of Cardiology – Jacksonville, participate in numerous national and international clinical trials. Using the most sophisticated equipment available, the center offers state-of-the-art diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services. The UF Health Cardiovascular Center – Jacksonville is the only provider of many leading-edge interventional therapies and treatment options in Northeast Florida, which often results in better outcomes for cardiovascular patients.