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Belford Man Finally Finds Permanent Solution for Heart Issue With Next-Generation Device

August 16, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:

It was over a decade ago when David Henritzy, a Methodist minister, first experienced extreme heart pain. He had just left a meeting at his church in New York, where he was living at the time, and quickly made his way to the hospital. There, he was diagnosed with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, and atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.

“I didn’t have a heart attack per se, but symptomatically it resembled a heart attack,” says David, who is now 77 years old.

When David moved to Belford, New Jersey, in 2005, he transferred his care to Dale Edlin, M.D., a cardiologist at Riverview Medical Center. Dr. Edlin has carefully followed David’s case, treating him with a number of medications, such as beta blockers, to help prevent congestive heart failure and other complications.

On Dr. Edlin’s recommendation, David also underwent a procedure for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device placed under the skin that monitors and regulates heart rate. “Should his heart get out of rhythm in a way that would be potentially dangerous or life-threatening, the device will shock the heart back to normal,” says Dr. Edlin. “It's kind of like walking around with an EMS person behind you who has their defibrillator pads charged and ready to go at any second.”

Complicated Care

An ongoing challenge in David’s care has been reducing his risk of blood clots from atrial fibrillation. The traditional treatment for this is blood thinners or anticoagulants, but because David also suffers from recurring urinary bleeding, this came with its own risks. “When you're on a full anticoagulant or a blood thinner, your risk of bleeding from some other part of the body is increased,” says Dr. Edlin.

With this in mind, Dr. Edlin referred David to Riple Hansalia, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, to look at the possibility of implanting a permanent device called the Watchman. This device can prevent blood clots from forming, eliminating the need for blood thinners or anticoagulants. It works by closing off an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA), which is not needed by the adult heart but is where blood clots often develop. Blocking off the LAA reduces the risk of clots forming, breaking loose, traveling to the brain and causing a stroke.

This wasn’t the first time that the Watchman had been considered for David. He’d previously undergone a procedure in New York to implant it, but because his anatomy and the size of the Watchman device were not compatible, the procedure had been unsuccessful.

Dr. Hansalia felt it was in David’s best interests to try the Watchman again. “Many times we'll revisit a situation to see if they’d be a candidate for a reattempt,” says Dr. Hansalia. “It was worth another try because he was at such high risk of having a stroke and having a bleed.”

Unfortunately this second attempt was also unsuccessful for David.

New Opportunity

There was an opportunity on the horizon. The second generation of Watchman device was close to being released—and was expected to be a better fit for David.

But first, the second-generation device needed to be approved for use by Jersey Shore. Dr. Hansalia advocated for David and contacted hospital administration to speed up the approval process.

“Any time a second-generation device or any new device comes out, it has to be approved by the institution. That process was sped up specifically to try to help Mr. Henritzy, and it was approved,” says Dr. Hansalia. “Our institution was one of the first to switch over to the second-generation Watchman device.”

Just before Thanksgiving 2020, David underwent a third procedure with the Watchman. This time, Dr. Hansalia was able to successfully insert the device.

Six weeks later, David returned for a routine follow-up with Dr. Hansalia, who confirmed that the Watchman was in the correct position and operating as expected. “He was doing extremely well, and we were able to successfully take him off the blood thinners,” says Dr. Hansalia.

David is feeling great and appreciates the peace of mind the Watchman has brought him. “I’ve experienced no sensation whatsoever of it being in my heart,” he says. “But it’s improved my optimism and outlook on life because I know it's there and that it’s taking care of business.”

Next Steps & Resources:

Meet our sources: Dale Edlin, M.D. and Riple Hansalia, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Edlin, Dr. Hansalia or another doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

Learn more about comprehensive cardiac care close to home

Surprising signs you may be having a heart attack

What does a cardiac stress test reveal?

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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