Beaumont doctors give patients heart attacks to save lives

8/8/2014

Alcohol septal ablation: a heart treatment option at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak

Mary Campbell, 77, of Detroit, was taking over-the-counter pain medication and sleeping with three pillows in hopes of relieving her discomfort and difficulties breathing at night. But after two visits to the Emergency Center for chest pain and shortness of breath, she was referred to interventional cardiologist George Hanzel, M.D., medical director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Mary Campbell surrounded by six of her 10 children
at her 75th birthday party.

The great-grandmother of 37 and grandmother of 45 says her pain was severe and sporadic, often leaving her exhausted and having to lie down. “I felt like a knife was going through my chest, into my back. I’d feel pain all the way down my left side.”

During Campbell’s visit with Dr. Hanzel, he explained to her that she would be a good candidate for a heart procedure called alcohol septal ablation. This is a treatment option for select patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, abnormal thickening of the septum between the pump chambers of the heart causing obstruction of blood flow. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue with exertion. He also told her that during the procedure, the alcohol creates a “small controlled heart attack,” causing a scar to shrink the size of the muscle and relieve the obstruction.

“Dr. Hanzel examined me and then he drew a picture of my heart. He told me the wall of my heart is hard and needs shrinking,” recalls Campbell.

Regarding the heart attack, Campbell says, “I didn’t give it no thought. I told the Lord, ‘If you’re ready to take me, I’m ready to go.’ I was hurting so bad, I was ready to try anything and Dr. Hanzel said he could take away my chest pain.”

In May, Campbell arrived at the hospital with five of her children, her best friend and her daughter-in-law for the heart-attack inducing procedure.

Campbell was one of three patients who interventional cardiologists from across the nation and Japan came to observe for a first-of-its-kind training course with live patient procedures at Beaumont’s Tyner Center for Cardiovascular Interventions. The Tyner Center is a high-tech, hybrid operating room and catheterization suite with a large observation room allowing physicians to view procedures in real time. The training course was co-sponsored by Winthrop-University Hospital in New York and featured world experts in alcohol septal ablation: Srihari Naidu, M.D., Winthrop-University Hospital; Michael Fifer, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital; Sherif Nagueh, M.D., Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center; and Paul Sorajja, M.D. Minneapolis Heart Institute.

“The alcohol ablation procedure is designed to reduce the obstruction of the left ventricular outflow tract to improve symptoms, and in carefully selected patients like Ms. Campbell, this is proven to be an excellent treatment option,” explains Dr. Hanzel, who says the inaugural program was a great success. Planning is underway for another course in 2015.

Following the procedure and after a several days of rest, Campbell says she started to feel better.

“Believe it or not, I’ve had no chest pain. Before, I couldn’t walk from the couch to the front door. Now, I can walk with my grandchildren and don’t get out of breath and I’m not in pain…I feel good and I sleep real good – just like a baby,” says Campbell, who uses only one pillow to sleep since the procedure.

With her increase in energy and lack of exhaustion, the great-grandmother has done away with preparing her quick-fix of toast. She’s back to baking her homemade butter rolls and biscuits and spending quality time with her large family. In fact, this month, Campbell will travel to Tennessee with 300 relatives to enjoy a family reunion.