BOSTON – Sixty-three patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and a history of intracranial hemorrhage have safely received a Watchman device for left atrial appendage (LAA) closure followed by 6 months of treatment with an individualized drug regimen to prevent thrombus formation at three U.S. centers. The 6-month outcomes of these patients were as good as the outcomes of 95 similar patients who did not have a history of intracranial hemorrhage, Moussa C. Mansour, MD, said at the annual .
“Individualized, postprocedural antithrombotic management ranging from dual antiplatelet therapy to oral anticoagulation plus aspirin can be used short term,” said, director of the atrial AF program at Massachusetts General Hospital. He and his associates devised this approach “out of necessity,” he said. The findings “show that you can get these patients through the initial postprocedural period” by individualizing their antiplatelet or anticoagulant treatment.
Not many U.S. operators are currently placing LAA closure devices in patients with a history of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH). “No one knows what to do with them. There is no standard approach; it’s an evolving field,” he said in an interview.
Dr. Mansour reviewed his group’s experience at Massachusetts General with LAA closure using the Watchman device combined with the experience of teams at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia
The patients with a prior ICH included 57% with a prior intracerebral hemorrhage, 29% with a prior subdural hemorrhage, 10% with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and the remainder unspecified.
Thirty-two of the 63 patients with an ICH history received postprocedural anticoagulation with a direct-acting oral anticoagulant, 18 received warfarin, and 13 received dual antiplatelet therapy but no anticoagulant. Among the 45 patients treated with an oral anticoagulant, 27 also received aspirin. Among the 95 patients reviewed without an ICH history, 93 received an oral anticoagulant, and 2 received dual antiplatelet therapy.
During 180 days of follow-up, the combined incidence of death, stroke, or a major bleed was about 5% among the patients with an ICH history and about 10% among those without this history, a difference that was not statistically significant, Dr. Mansour said.
At Massachusetts General, the decision on how to treat AF patients with an ICH history after they undergo LAA closure is made by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians from the arrhythmia, neurology, radiology, anesthesia, and cardiovascular surgery services. A key factor when determining the drug regimen these patients will receive is the location and size of the ICH when imaged with CT or MRI, Dr. Mansour said. The team also assessed the current likelihood that the patient will bleed. “One size does not fit all” patients, he explained.
A randomized trial,(Assessment of the Watchman Device in Patients Unsuitable for Oral Anticoagulation) is now in progress and was designed to compare the safety and efficacy of LAA closure using Watchman with medical management in 888 patients deemed ineligible for anticoagulation, but enrollment into the trial has been slow. As of early 2019, the study’s organizers posted an estimated completion date of late 2023. Until that study finishes, the field will have no definitive data on how to manage these patients, Dr. Mansour said. He noted that a handful of other reports have presented evidence for the safety of LAA closure in these patients, including a review from the Cleveland Clinic on 38 AF patients who received the Watchman device after an ICH (Heart Rhythm. 2018 Dec 2. ); a review of the Amplatzer Cardiac Plug registry, which included 198 patients with an ICH history (Int J Cardiol. 2017 June 1; ); and a single-center review of 46 French patients who underwent LAA closure after intracerebral hemorrhage (J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2017 March; ).