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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia affecting more than 1.6 million patients in Germany. Based on demographic developments, an the number is expected to increase. Embolic strokes in AF patients are particularly severe, and individualized new oral anticoagulant (NOAC) therapy reduces the incidence of stroke in these patients by approximately 70%. Besides vitamin K antagonists, the NOACs rivaroxaban, dabigatran, apixaban, and edoxaban have been introduced into clinical practice; however, major bleeding still occurs at a rate of 2-3% per year. Moreover, randomized studies and real-life registries suggest that >20% of patients with AF and an indication for anticoagulation cannot tolerate chronic oral anticoagulant therapy. Therefore, an alternative method for stroke prevention in AF patients has been developed, i. e., catheter-based exclusion of the left atrial appendage (LAA), a location that is prone for thrombus formation in these patients. The randomized trials of catheter-based LAA occlusion have compared this interventional therapy with vitamin K antagonists. In the future, however, LAA exclusion needs to be compared with NOAC therapy. Moreover, percutaneous LAA exclusion in clinical practice is mostly offered to patients ineligible for long-term oral anticoagulation or with high bleeding risk. However, no controlled, randomized trial data exist for this patient population. These data are needed for appropriate clinical judgment and optimal clinical management. Ongoing studies and scientific questions that are important to define the future for catheter-based LAA closure are discussed in this review.
PMID: 29101545 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]