SJ/C First In The Region To Close Congenital Hole In Heart Without Surgery

Jun 3, 2016

An interventional cardiologist at The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler has successfully closed the holes in two patients’ hearts using a minimally-invasive implant.

babcock-michaelThe implant can give patients their life back and stop the risk of strokes – without open surgery or a long hospital stay.

“The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler has always been the first to bring the latest technology and procedures to the region,” said Dr. Michael John Babcock, the board-certified interventional cardiologist who performed the first two implant procedures. “I’ve seen firsthand how beneficial this type of minimally-invasive procedure can be, so it’s rewarding to be able to partner with The Heart Hospital to offer this new technology.”

The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler is the only interventional and structural heart program in our region to offer a multi-disciplinary team of fellowship-trained physicians and staff.

How It Works

Just like the process we use to open up blocked arteries or replace a heart valve, doctors use a catheter to guide a special implant through an incision in the leg. The two-disk, button-shaped implant – called the St. Jude Amplatzer Septal Occluder – sits inside a catheter as it travels up into the heart.

Using a flourascope and intracardiac ultrasound, a specially-trained cardiologist carefully positions the implant through the hole in the heart and then expands the two sides of the disc until the middle part of the implant rests snuggly against the heart wall. The result is like cuff links or buttons filling the holes on a shirt.

Patients typically go home within 1-2 days following the procedure. In about 95 percent of patients, the hole is closed immediately. Over a period of five to six months the lining of the heart grows completely over this.

Not all patients with a hole in their heart would benefit from surgery. It depends on the size of the hole, the patient’s symptoms and how they impact their quality of life.

About The Condition

This implant can be used to correct one of two conditions: Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) which are both 10 to 30 millimeter holes between the top chambers of the heart. In the case of ASD, this hole can cause too much blood to flow in the wrong direction. Over time, this can cause heart failure.

Who Received The Implant

A 57-year-old woman received the first implant after complaining of shortness of breath two years ago. Her cardiologist found that she had a hole in her heart. She was referred to Atlanta for a closure procedure but did not want to travel that far for care and delayed treatment.
Her shortness of breath continued to worsen over time as her heart enlarged to compensate for her blood flowing in the wrong direction through the hole. Dr. Babcock was consulted and recommended device closure based on the size of the hole and the progression of her symptoms. She was successfully treated and returned home to her family the next day.

She is continuing to follow up with Dr. Babcock and states she is seeing gradual improvement in her symptoms. It is expected that these symptoms will continue to improve as her heart adapts to the closure and begins to return to its normal function and size.

A very active 76-year-old man was the second successful patient to receive the implant. A blood clot was discovered in his leg when he was admitted to the hospital following a stroke. Because he was continuing to experience a series of strokes despite being on blood thinners, his attending neurologist and cardiologist jointly requested cardiac imaging where the PFO was discovered.

Dr. Babcock was consulted and recommended closure. He was successfully treated and returned home to his family after an overnight stay at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He is continuing to follow up with Dr. Babcock and reports doing well.

About The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler

The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph's/Candler is the leading provider of diagnostic and therapeutic minimally invasive cardiac procedures in the region, serving more than 3,500 patients each year. We offer all cardiovascular services except heart transplant. The Heart Hospital provides the community with a blend of highly qualified and Board Certified physicians and full accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with PCI from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

St. Joseph’s Hospital is part of the 714-bed St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, a national Magnet-designated facility for nursing excellence, with a focus on the latest technologies and research. Its comprehensive network includes centers of excellence for oncology, cardiovascular, neurosciences, women’s and children’s services, orthopedics and a variety of other disease specialties. Comprised of two of the oldest continuously operating hospitals in the United States, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital, this not-for-profit health system serves 33 counties in southeast Georgia and the South Carolina Low Country and is the largest and only faith-based institution in the region. For more information, visit

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