Heart and Brain Center | Hackensack Meridian Health   

New Jersey’s First Heart and Brain Center Opens at Hackensack University Medical Center

Clinic to Evaluate and Treat Stroke Patients with Patent Foramen Ovale Facilitates Cardiology and Neurology Collaboration

Heart and Brain Center

Hackensack University Medical Center has established a Heart and Brain Center to evaluate and treat people with patent foramen ovale (PFO) — a small hole in the heart — who have had a stroke not due to other causes and who are at risk of a second stroke. The clinic is a collaboration between the medical center's renowned cardiology and neurology experts in one multidisciplinary program and is the first of its kind in New Jersey.

“Our commitment to science and having teams from multiple disciplines working together is what makes this program really special,” said Tilak K.R. Pasala, MD, interim director, Structural and Congenital Heart Program and the structural interventional cardiologist who performs PFO closure procedures. He noted that prior recommendations once stipulated that PFO closure was not indicated until a patient had a second stroke. But recent evidence suggests that the outcomes were better if the procedure was performed after a first stroke, resulting in a change to the guidelines. “That's where the evidence is now,” Dr. Pasala added.

The potential for significant brain damage is high if an individual with PFO develops a blood clot in the legs or other part of the body and it travels to the heart, crosses through the hole and travels to the brain. Even a very small clot can cause a lot of damage to the brain.

Closing the PFO through an interventional heart procedure can reduce the risk of a second stroke in people who had a first stroke. Only about 1 percent of patients with a PFO experience a stroke, however, and among those, not everyone needs to have the closure procedure. That's where the Heart and Brain Clinic comes in.

“We have a well-developed structural heart program through the Heart and Vascular Hospital and a well-developed stroke program through our Comprehensive Stroke Center,” added Florian P. Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., founding chair and professor, Department of Neurology at Hackensack University Medical Center and Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “We have academic programs in interventional heart and stroke care that offer the ideal combination of expertise, all in one medical center.”

The center enables patients to see a structural cardiologist and stroke neurologist during the same visit.

Learn more about innovative cardiac treatments at Hackensack University Medical Center.

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