Henry Ford Health System Now Offering Radiation Therapy to Treat Recurrent Blockage in the Heart

April 26, 2021
Randall Westphal

DETROIT (April 26, 2021) – Interventional cardiologists at Henry Ford Health System have begun offering brachytherapy, the use of radiation to prevent recurrent blockage in a stent that has been implanted in the coronary arteries of the heart. The health system’s first cases were performed by Khaldoon Alaswad, M.D., Mohammad Alqarqaz, M.D.Babar Basir, D.O., and Mohamed Elshaikh, M.D. at Henry Ford Hospital in March 2021.

The most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease, is a condition in which arteries in the heart are blocked or narrowed by plaque, which is a buildup of cholesterol deposits and later calcification that accumulate over time. Standard treatment options include minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures, such as the placement drug eluting stent in the coronary artery, or angioplasty, which uses a small balloon-tipped catheter to open a blocked or partially blocked artery. While drug-eluting stents slowly release a drug to prevent restenosis, which is recurrent blockage from cell growth, some patients may still experience recurrent blockage. This is where brachytherapy may be able to help.

“We are thrilled to begin offering brachytherapy as treatment option for our patients who are struggling with recurrent blockage,” said Dr. Alaswad, Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Henry Ford Hospital. “This type of treatment has been shown to be effective for patients who have experienced recurrent blockage or narrowing of the artery after standard treatments, with a stent.”

With brachytherapy, an interventional cardiologist works closely with a radiation oncologist to determine the exact amount of radiation needed for the procedure. Once determined, the interventional cardiologist will use a catheter to get to the blocked or narrowed artery in the heart, which is a minimally-invasive procedure. Once at the site of the blockage, the artery will be cleared using a small catheter-based balloon or device, and a small amount of contained radioactive material will be introduced into the artery for a few minutes, as determined by the radiation oncologist, then the catheter and radioactive material are removed.

“This collaboration between our cardiology experts, radiation oncologists and medical physicists at Henry Ford Cancer Institute is a testament to the wonderful multidisciplinary approach and world class care that our patients receive,” said Dr. Elshaikh, senior staff physician and director of Brachytherapy at Henry Ford Cancer Institute. “This would not be possible without the dedicated work and support of our medical physicists, including Tony Doemer and the entire radiation oncology team. This expansion of our brachytherapy program will greatly benefit many patients who have struggled with coronary artery disease.”

For Randall Westphal, 62, one of the first patients to receive brachytherapy at Henry Ford Health System, this procedure provides hope for the future. 

Randall’s journey began at age 42 when he suddenly started experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and was rushed to a nearby hospital in Saginaw. At that time, he had three stents placed in his heart and participated in a research trial of a blood thinner medication, which for some time alleviated the symptoms he was experiencing. The drug-eluting stents put into his heart at that time were medicated to prevent restenosis, but Randall unfortunately still experienced recurrent blockage. 
 
At the age of 49, he suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. He had additional stents placed in his heart through a catheter, and today has at least 10 stents inside his heart.

Over the past four years, Randall has been in the hospital for other heart-related procedures. Last year, he underwent angioplasty, the catheter-based procedure that uses tiny specialized balloons and tools to clear blocked blood vessels in his heart. In just over a year, the blood vessel had closed again.

Using radiation to prevent the growth of heart tissue inside the stent, Brachytherapy is a treatment option that may prevent the restenosis Randall has previously experienced. Since undergoing Brachytherapy at Henry Ford Hospital on March 2, he says he is feeling much better than he did before the procedure. 

“I’m feeling 100% now, much better than I was before,” Randall said. “When the blood vessels were blocked up, I felt progressively slower and slower over time. I felt more fatigued and tired, and just didn’t have the drive I need for everyday life. The improvement I feel now after brachytherapy is like night and day.” 

To learn more about coronary artery disease treatment at Henry Ford Health System, or to request an appointment, visit henryford.com/services/coronary-artery-disease.

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About Henry Ford Health System:
Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes Henry Ford Medical Group, with more than 1,900 physicians and researchers practicing in more than 50 specialties at locations throughout Southeast and Central Michigan. Acute care hospitals include Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI and Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, MI – both Magnet® hospitals; Henry Ford Macomb Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

The largest of these is Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, a quaternary care research and teaching hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center recognized for clinical excellence in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, and multi-organ transplants. The health system also provides comprehensive, best-in-class care for cancer at the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, and orthopedics and sports medicine at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine – both in Detroit.

As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System annually trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.

Our not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan (HAP) provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.

Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Adkins / (586) 307-2027 / [email protected]