UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation

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The Center for Atrial Fibrillation is the first center of its kind in western Pennsylvania established to further the study and treatment of atrial fibrillation and to educate patients and their families about the condition.

As part of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, we're a group of cardiologists, surgeons, and nurses committed to both excellence in patient care and leadership in patient education.

Additional Resources

Read the article

Read Dr. Samir Saba's editorial on Left Atrial Appendage Closure in the Journal of the American Heart Association here.

About the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation

The heart is a pump. Like any pump, it requires a timer. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) happens when the timer inefficiently beats faster.

This defect of heart timing, or rhythm, may cause symptoms such as:

  • Palpitations (fluttering in the chest)
  • Chest discomfort
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

Atrial fibrillation is a complex disease often missed in routine exams. Many times, a diagnosis uncovers other heart–related problems.

Although it usually isn't a direct cause of death, atrial fibrillation should be taken seriously. It may cause serious life-altering illness, such as stroke.

How we can help

At the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation, we believe that early detection and treatment of atrial fibrillation lead to better results.

In addition to diagnosing atrial fibrillation, we:

Every one of us is dedicated to applying the latest atrial fibrillation research and knowledge to provide the safest, most effective options in patient care. It is with this knowledge that we discover atrial fibrillation causes and consequences, and develop treatment options.

Our goals at the Center for Atrial Fibrillation

Our main goals at the Center are to:

  • Increase awareness of and screening for atrial fibrillation
  • Reduce incidence of cardiac and cerebrovascular injury associated with this condition
  • Educate patients about their health and options in the face of an atrial fibrillation diagnosis

Getting ready for your appointment at the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation

Learn more about what you can expect before, during, and after your visit with the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation, a part of our Heart and Vascular Institute.

Before your visit

To prepare for your visit at the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation you will be asked to provide:

  • Name, address, and contact phon number
  • Insurance information
  • Rhythm strip or EK that documents your atrial fibrillation
  • An echocardiogram repor tand other cardiac test results
  • Relevant medical records

All information should be sent within the same package to your home.

Raising awareness about atrial fibrillation

At the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation we look to educate and advocate the “big picture” — that is, how to restore and protect good quality of life for people with atrial fibrillation.

Through screening, we hope to reach as many people with atrial fibrillation as possible so we can reduce their risk for stroke and other cardiovascular events.

Our Center works closely with:

  • Primary care physicians to consider atrial fibrillation early in their diagnostic efforts
  • Cardiology groups throughout the region and the country to share expert advice and insight
  • Colleagues to achieve optimal outcomes for people with atrial fibrillation

By raising public and professional awareness of this condition, we may be able to encourage earlier intervention and avoid the potentially debilitating consequences of atrial fibrillation.

Our Experts at the Center for Atrial Fibrillation

Our multidisciplinary team at the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation are experts in cardiology and cardiac surgery, and here to provide you the best care and treatment for your particular condition.

They’re interested not only in advancing the world's knowledge about atrial fibrillation, but in applying their expertise to helping people live healthier lives and receiving the best treatment.

World-class experts in heart health

Who should visit the UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation?

Our doctors are available for consultation. A visit to our center is best for patients who:

  • Have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
  • Have been diagnosed with the condition but are not responding well to current medications and treatment.
  • Have high-risk and require specialized treatment.
  • Are seeking a second opinion.

Watchman™ Device

The Watchman device offers an alternative way to lower the risk of stroke in some people with atrial fibrillation (AFib).

AFib causes blood to pool in the left atrial appendage, which may result in the formation of a blood clot. If the blood clot moves to the brain, it can lead to stroke. Every person’s stroke risk is different, based on their age, gender, and medical conditions.

Many people with AFib take blood thinner medicines like warfarin (or Coumadin®) to lower their stroke risk, but blood thinners are not safe for everyone. The Watchman offers an alternative to warfarin and other blood thinner medications.

The Watchman heart device is a parachute-shaped, implanted device that closes off the left atrial appendage, the area of the heart most commonly linked to clot formation that could lead to stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. Studies have shown that once the device is successfully placed, the Watchman offers as much protection against stroke as blood thinners.

Some people, including those with AFib not caused by heart valve disease, who have an increased risk of stroke and who cannot safely take blood thinners, may be candidates for the Watchman device.

How does the Watchman device work?

During a Watchman procedure, your doctor:

  • Accesses a vein in your leg
  • Uses special moving x-ray imaging, called fluoroscopy, to guide a catheter containing the device to your heart
  • Places the device in your left atrial appendage to close it off using ultrasound and fluoroscopy guidance

The procedure typically takes a little more than an hour to perform. Over time, scar tissue forms around the device, permanently closing off the left atrial appendage.

What are the advantages of the Watchman?

The Watchman device is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure and can provide an alternative for lowering the risk of stroke in some people with AFib who cannot safely take blood thinner medicines.

What are the risks of the Watchman?

The Watchman device is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure that involves anesthesia.

Placement of the device may have serious adverse effects, including risks of:

  • Stroke
  • Damage to the vein used for insertion of the device
  • Major bleeding
  • Other life-threatening events or even death

Our experience

UPMC is one of a select group of hospitals in the United States—and the only hospital in western Pennsylvania—to treat people with AFib using the recently FDA-approved Watchman device.

Our Watchman expert:

Watch a Video


To make an appointment with an atrial fibrillation specialist at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, complete an appointment request form, call 1-844-HVI-AFIB (484-2342), or send an email to CenterforAFib@upmc.edu.

Watchman™ is a trademark of Boston Scientific

Contact the Center for Atrial Fibrillation

We welcome your questions and comments and hope to help in any way that we can.

For patients

To make an appointment:

For physicians

To refer a patient, call UPMC's 24-hour physician referral service at: 1-866-884-8579

Our location

UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation
UPMC Presbyterian
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582