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Advanced Cardiac Care Now available Through The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital

Northwestern Medicine physicians implant heart device to prevent stroke caused by irregular heartbeat

Physicians from the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital have successfully placed a WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) device in the heart of a patient to help prevent a stroke and discontinue the long-term use of oral blood-thinning medication. The WATCHMAN device is for patients who have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is not related to problems with the heart’s valves. This is the first procedure using this device in a McHenry County hospital.

The successful implantation was performed by Tonye Teme, MD, cardiac electrophysiology at Northwestern Medicine McHenry and Huntley Hospitals and Asad Sheikh, MD, interventional cardiology at Northwestern Medicine McHenry and Huntley Hospitals. Both physicians recently joined the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to bring additional leading-edge cardiovascular care to the far northwest suburbs. With the expansion of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to Northwestern Medicine McHenry and Huntley hospitals, patients will have access to the No. 1-ranked cardiovascular program in Illinois and one of the top programs in the nation.

“Patients are already benefiting from The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s expansion to McHenry County,” said Ian Cohen, MD, FACC, FSCAI, medical director at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine McHenry and Huntley Hospitals. “The WATCHMAN procedure is just one of the new life-changing treatment options we are bringing to patients.”

Dr. Cohen adds that they have also welcomed renowned cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Aqeel Sandhu, MD, to the team in order to bring an even higher level of cardiac surgery to the community.

The WATCHMAN device prevents stroke in people with atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmia (irregular pulse) which affects an estimated 5 million people in the United States. Atrial fibrillation is a leading cardiac cause of stroke, as the arrhythmia causes blood to pool and form clots in a small pocket-like section in the upper left chamber of the heart called the atrial appendage.

Atrial fibrillation is often treated with blood thinning drugs to reduce clotting, but there are people who cannot take blood thinners due to bleeding risk. The WATCHMAN device is indicated to reduce stroke in people who have atrial fibrillation and high bleeding risk who cannot take blood thinners.

The WATCHMAN device is designed to seal off the atrial appendage thus preventing blood from entering, pooling and forming a clot. It is implanted by physicians in the cardiac catheterization lab, using a vein on the patient’s upper leg to direct a specialized catheter into the heart under X-ray guidance, positioning the device at the entrance of the left atrial appendage. When the catheter is withdrawn, the device stays in position as a permanent seal.

Over time, heart tissue will grow over the device, permanently sealing off the left atrial appendage. Most patients discontinue blood thinners 45 days after the procedure, and more than 99 percent of patients in a clinical trial were off blood thinners one year after the WATCHMAN implant.

“The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital is helping us bring advanced academic medicine and research to McHenry County,” said Nick Rave, president of Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital. “We are now closely linked to the teams at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and use their leading protocols to provide innovative care to our patients. We have also streamlined the care of patients with the most advanced conditions who require advanced cardiac care or other treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”

Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, executive director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, is pleased to offer this care to the McHenry region. “We have organized this Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute heart team so that we can offer the highest quality care close to where our patients live. Building the heart team at McHenry Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital is another example of our dedication to our “Patients First” mission.”

In addition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the WATCHMAN procedure is also offered at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital. To learn more about Northwestern Medicine, visit http://news.nm.org/about-northwestern-medicine.html.