“This keeps people doing what they love doing”

April, Archive, Month

An innovative heart procedure helps a man regain his energy.

Had it not been for an old racquetball injury and eventual foot procedure, Ken might not have known the extent of his atrial fibrillation.

It was during the routine, pre-op tests that his doctor first told him he was, at that very moment, in AFib.

“There was none of that classic fluttering of the heart,” Ken said, “but I always thought there was something there.”

“I was told you could stroke out,
and I had some friends who had
had strokes,” Ken said, “so there
was some concern there.”

Ken, like so many other men and women in their 60s, has encountered bouts of shortness of breath and sudden fatigue. And as many in his age group do, he explained it away as a sign of getting a little older.

He had been taking aspirin every day, but now, though, told about his AFib, decided to bring it up to his cardiologist, Dr. Timothy Logan, at McLaren Macomb.

Determining that Ken’s was a non-valvular form of atrial fibrillation, Dr. Logan prescribed an anticoagulant (“blood-thinner”) medication.

However, it would ultimately be a minimally invasive procedure that returned Ken to the active life he had come to enjoy.

Forms of AFib

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat caused by misfiring electrical impulses in the heart, prompting the “fluttering” heart sensation along with symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. Ken’s was a type physicians refer to as “non-valvular.”

Non-valvular AFib can be rooted in the patient’s history of heart failure, heart attack and other heart diseases as well as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, stress or other factors.

Whether valvular or non-valvular AFib, the effects and threats to the patients’ overall well-being are the same.

“Patients with AFib are naturally at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack and other forms of advanced heart disease,” Dr. Logan said. “Along with the quality-of-life-limiting symptoms they can experience every day, there’s also the potentially life-threatening attacks, making it all the more important to manage this condition and treat it.”


“I tried two different medications, but they were wearing on me,” Ken said. “The second one, I was on it for a month before quitting. These pills would make me dizzy, faint and, in the heat, my head was just spinning.”

Initially, Ken was put on an anticoagulant meant to prevent the formation of stroke- and heart attack-inducing blood clots. Irregular heartbeats, causing blood to pool up, create conditions in which clots can form.

“I was told you could stroke out, and I had some friends who had had strokes,” Ken said, “so there was some concern there.”

An avid boater, scuba diver and grandfather to some young grandchildren, Ken had been living and enjoying an active life, something he hoped to continue.

“On the medication, I wouldn’t have attempted anything that I usually do on the boat,” he said. “I couldn’t tolerate the heat, I wouldn’t stand up without feeling faint – I was concerned that I would fall and start bleeding. And it wouldn’t be a great idea to dive in this condition.”

He was looking for another way.

That’s when he learned about Watchman.

Performed in the cardiac catheterization lab, Watchman is a minimally invasive procedure that implants a device to close off the left atrial appendage, a small, non-vital opening in the heart’s left atrium muscle wall.

For patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation, blood can pool in this appendage, increasing the likelihood of clots forming.

“I saw some videos online and did some research, and I came away encouraged,” he said, determined to be a candidate for the procedure.

In late July, McLaren Macomb cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. M. Cameron Willoughby implanted the device in Ken’s heart, significantly reducing the risk for the potentially life-threatening conditions associated with AFib, while also allowing him to eventually discontinue his daily medication.

Earlier in the year, Dr. Willoughby performed the first Watchman procedure in Macomb County.

“In life, you have to trust someone some¬times,” he said, “and I trusted in the hospital. They’re good people there.”

By his 45-day follow-up, Ken was already off one of his medications. But more important to him, he’s no longer feeling the faintness and fatigue that was too often slowing him down. Case in point, he ended the summer by preparing his boat for the winter in a day-long maintenance blitz.

Prior to the procedure, he says, that’s something he would not nearly have been able to do.

“This keeps people doing what they love doing.”



Learn more about the Watchman procedure at McLaren Macomb.

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Heart care at McLaren Macomb

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