Heart and Vascular Team Makes History

First in Midwest to Perform Back-to-Back Robotic Procedures Treating STEMI Heart Attacks

Thanks to a generous gift from Robert W. Considine, McLaren Northern Michigan Interventional cardiologist, Harry Colfer, MD, made history in late December 2020, when he became the first physician in the Midwest to perform back-to-back robotic procedures treating STEMI heart attacks using the CorPath Vascular Robotic System.

The most deadly type of heart attack is the ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI). A STEMI occurs when a coronary artery becomes completely blocked and a large portion of the muscle stops receiving blood.

“A STEMI is an active heart attack,” said Dr. Colfer. “It is critical to get the patient to the lab as quickly as you can. The robotic system allows us to efficiently find the blocked artery and reopen it. The longer it takes, the more heart muscle damage occurs.”

Crucial to the McLaren Northern Michigan Catheterization Lab (Cath Lab) team are Cardiovascular Invasive Specialists, Tim Goldsmith, RCIS, and Glen Withersbee, CNMT, BSNM, both of whom have become what the CorPath company calls “superusers” of the system. They load the equipment with necessary wires and balloons, working closely with Dr. Colfer throughout the procedure.

“The supporting superusers of the tool are there to guide and expedite the start of the procedure, which in turn creates better outcomes,” added Withersbee. “The robot has the ability to be more precise, increasing the ability to get into the vessel quicker.”

“We had the right team in place at the right time to be able to carry out these procedures in the best way possible,” Colfer said.

A 38-year veteran in the Cath Lab, Goldsmith said the CorPath Vascular Robotics System is one of the best tools implemented during his tenure. “It allows us to precisely manipulate wires and catheters, especially for placing our stents in lesions, providing more accurate placement.”

The benefits to the patient are evident, but there are added benefits for the Cath Lab staff. “Working in a Cath Lab we are exposed to radiation. This new tool allows us to reduce our x-ray exposure,” said Goldsmith.

“We are only in the early stages of robotic surgery.” said Dr. Colfer. “As we use these technologies, we are not only doing what’s best for our patients today, we are also helping to expand medical practice, which will lead to more innovation in the future.”

The future may be closer than expected for robotic surgery. The next steps would be utilizing telerobotics.

“With the rural geography of northern Michigan, telerobotics could be a complete game changer in delivering critical care to patients,” said Steve Backstaff, Clinical Representative for CorPath. “While the future is unknown, I can see a day when a physician here at McLaren is performing a procedure in Petoskey on a patient in the Upper Peninsula. This changes the meaning of care close to home.”

The CorPath Vascular Robotics System is only available in 65 hospitals throughout the nation. Thanks to Robert W. Considine’s commitment to the Heart and Vascular program at McLaren Northern Michigan, the hospital is leading the way in utilization of this new technology to save lives in our region.

“I am truly moved by Mr. Considine’s generosity,” said Todd Burch, McLaren Northern Michigan President and CEO. “His gifts literally helped save the lives of hundreds of cardiac patients. Our program is strong because of his commitment and support.”

“The possibilities for robotic surgery will continue to expand in the coming years and decades,” he continued. “Thanks to donors like Mr. Considine, who was passionate about supporting innovation and a care team with the expertise and willingness to embrace new technologies, the McLaren Northern Michigan heart and vascular program will be at the forefront of these advances.”

To learn more about the heart program at McLaren Northern Michigan or how you could be a part of the future of robotics, visit www.McLaren.org/NorthernMichiganFoundation or call 231-487-3500.