PARIS – Transcatheter left atrial appendage occlusion shows promise in providing a far better stroke prevention strategy than does standard medical management in patients with atrial fibrillation who have had a prior intracerebral hemorrhage, Dr. Jens E. Nielsen-Kudsk reported at the annual congress of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions.
“This is a difficult group of patients because there is no consensus on how to treat patients with atrial fibrillation after an intracerebral hemorrhage. They are very often left without any antithrombotic therapy because physicians and the patients themselves fear to resume anticoagulant therapy. Left atrial appendage occlusion is a nice nonpharmacologic way to obtain stroke prevention,” said Dr. Nielsen-Kudsk of Aarhus (Denmark) University.
He presented a propensity-matched follow-up study of 147 pairs of such patients at seven Nordic heart centers. Half received the percutaneously delivered St. Jude Medical Amplatzer Amulet device, which is approved in Europe for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). These 147 device recipients were matched for stroke risk by CHA2DS2-VASc score and for bleeding risk by HASBLED score with 147 patients with AF and a prior intracerebral hemorrhage who received standard medical therapy, ranging from warfarin or a novel oral anticoagulant in nearly half of patients to no antithrombotic therapy in 44%. The Amplatzer recipients were most often placed on aspirin for 6 months afterward unless they had an indication for continued aspirin, such as known coronary artery disease.
During a mean of 166 days of follow-up, the primary study endpoint – a composite of ischemic stroke, major bleeding, or death – occurred in the standard medical therapy group at a rate of 278.9 events per 1,000 patient-years, compared with 47.9 per 1,000 patient-years in patients with left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO). This translates to an 81% relative risk reduction.
Moreover, the risk of ischemic stroke in the LAAO group was reduced by 65%, major bleeding was reduced by 61%, the rate of intracerebral hemorrhage was reduced by 71%, and mortality was decreased by 92%, the cardiologist continued.
On the basis of these encouraging results, a randomized, prospective clinical trial of LAAO using the Amplatzer device versus standard medical therapy in patients with AF and a prior intracerebral hemorrhage will get underway in the Nordic countries within the next several months. It will be called STROKECLOSE, he added.
Asked if the Watchman, the only LAAO device approved in the United States, might be similarly amenable for stroke prevention in this high-stroke-and-bleeding-risk population, Dr. Nielsen-Kudsk said in theory, yes, but the device’s labeling calls for an initial 45 days of anticoagulation therapy. That’s a daunting prospect in patients who’ve already had an intracerebral bleed, he observed.
Dr. Nicolo Piazza, who chaired a press conference where the Nordic study was highlighted, said the Watchman labeling needn’t be a deal breaker.
“Although the Watchman recommendations suggest an anticoagulant for the first 45 days afterward, real-world practice is not necessarily that. Many of those patients are put on dual-antiplatelet therapy or a single antiplatelet agent for a period of 45 days, 3 months, 6 months – it’s very heterogeneous out there,” said Dr. Piazza of McGill University in Montreal.
He added that STROKEBLED will be a very important trial in terms of providing guidance for daily clinical practice. A propensity matched-pairs analysis can’t be considered the final word because of the possibility of unrecognized and unmatched variables that could affect outcomes.
Dr. Nielsen-Kudsk reported receiving research grants from and serving as a consultant to St. Jude Medical.