Bringing New Hope to Patients with Heart Disorder

April 30, 2019

Jackson, Michigan - A revolutionary new procedure to prevent stroke caused by blood clots in the brain was first performed at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in March. Electrophysiologist Timothy Shinn, MD, successfully implanted a permanent device called WATCHMAN™, which is an alternative to the lifelong use of anti-clotting medications, such as warfarin. These medications, while effective in preventing blood clots, can have a dangerous side effect of excessive bleeding.

Atrial fibrillation, or afib, affects the heart’s ability to pump blood normally. This can cause blood to pool in an area (pocket) of the heart called the left atrial appendage, or LAA. There, blood cells can stick together and form a clot. When a blood clot escapes from the LAA and travels to another part of the body, such as the brain, it can cause a stroke. Once implanted, the innovative WATCHMAN device fits into the LAA and permanently seals off that heart muscle pocket, making the clot-collecting pocket off limits, decreasing the stroke risk dramatically as a result.

Dr. Shinn’s first WATCHMAN procedure was performed on a patient with atrial fibrillation and a previous stroke, for whom the long-term use of warfarin presented an excessively high risk. “By implanting the WATCHMAN device, we were able to lower the risk of a future stroke to one or two percent, and the patient will eventually be able to stop using any form of anti-clotting medication,” Dr. Shinn said. “We are very pleased to bring this life-saving technology to our community.”

WATCHMAN is one example of the procedures that will be part of the first-class Structural Heart Program being developed by the cardiovascular program at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson. The program will create local access to minimally invasive procedures to correct abnormalities of the heart’s structure, including the valves, walls and muscle—in addition to issues with the arteries surrounding the heart (coronary heart disease).

For example, the Structural Heart Program will offer an innovative, minimally invasive procedure to replace a defective heart valve without open-heart surgery, known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). “TAVR brings new hope for people with significant heart disease, especially for those whose advanced age, frailty or degree of heart damage makes open-heart surgery particularly challenging,” said interventional cardiologist Matthew Jonovich, MD.

TAVR requires a custom-built advanced procedure room that can accommodate innovative imaging equipment and other technology needed to ensure the highest level of precision, safety and quality. Construction of this room at Henry Ford Allegiance Health is expected in the fall of 2019.

About Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Health System is a six-hospital system headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive, integrated health systems, recognized for clinical excellence and innovation. Henry Ford provides both health insurance and health care delivery, including acute, specialty, primary and preventive care services backed by excellence in research and education. Henry Ford Health System is led by President & CEO Wright Lassiter III.

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