Westchester Medical Center launches a program offering world-class treatment for a rare but increasingly recognized genetic heart condition.
By Ali Jackson-Jolley
As 2016 came to an end, Seattle businessman, restaurateur and father of three Mohamed Khayal hopped a plane headed to New York to seek medical care from Srihari Naidu, MD, FACC, Director of the new Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Program at Westchester Medical Center (WMC), the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). Khayal says his friends and family initially thought he was crazy to make the trip. After all, Seattle is a major metropolis with its own nationally recognized hospitals. But what his friends didn’t grasp was that Khayal needed a highly specialized treatment to correct his rare genetic heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken, while reducing its ability to function — and Dr. Naidu was his best hope.
“It was difficult to leave my family and my businesses behind,” says Khayal, “but my case was very rare. The condition in my heart was so deep in the muscle, my local doctor told me that if I didn’t have a specialist who knew exactly what he or she was doing, I could end up using a pacemaker for the rest of my life.”
To fix his heart, Khayal required a minimally invasive procedure known as alcohol septal ablation, in which alcohol is injected into the heart muscle, to reduce the abnormally enlarged tissue blocking blood flow. There is only a handful of doctors in the U.S. as experienced with this procedure as Dr. Naidu. So, in the last week of December, the doctor performed Khayal’s alcohol septal ablation at WMC and sent him back home to his family and his businesses, just in time to ring in the New Year.
Speaking to the logistical challenges in caring for a patient located across the country, Dr. Naidu explains, “Because Mr. Khayal is a businessman from Seattle, having his procedure done at Westchester Medical Center required him to make four separate trips to New York over six months’ time. This included the initial consultation and evaluation, the procedure and two required followup visits.” But the travel schedule proved to be worthwhile. “Today, Mr. Khayal is healthy and doing very well, with all his symptoms gone!”
Dr. Naidu reports. Dr. Naidu joined the WMC team in the fall of 2016, with the ambitious directive to create a world-class program to treat the condition in the Hudson Valley. Ticking off a few facts about the disease that has become his life’s work, Dr. Naidu explains, “HCM is a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 500 people. It can present in early childhood but is often asymptomatic and goes undiagnosed for years. It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.”
The vast majority of people diagnosed with HCM don’t require treatment (just careful monitoring of their disease). Those who do require treatment can usually manage the disease with medication only. For those who do require a mechanical fix, there are two options: open-heart surgery or alcohol septal ablation.
According to Dr. Naidu, WMC offers the ideal backdrop for the new, world-class hypertrophic cardiomyopathy program for several key reasons.
First, it has a large HCM patient population, which can be a hurdle for most new HCM programs, given that it’s a rare disease, impacting a small pool of people.
More important, the network offers an interdisciplinary team of experts who can treat the whole patient, providing all the care they need, in a coordinated fashion, within its hospital network. “This must include heart transplantation and a dedicated children’s hospital, since HCM affects every age group,” explains Dr. Naidu.
Simply put, the network offers a one-stop shop for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients, with dedicated HCM coordinators to work with both patients and outside doctors. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy touches on a great number of specialties from surgery, advanced imaging, clinical cardiology, electrophysiological and interventional services, to specialties outside of cardiology, including pediatrics, genetics, psychiatry, diet and nutrition. All of these specialties are offered at WMC by trained and dedicated HCM experts.
Another aspect that makes this new program so unique: expertise in both types of invasive treatments, alcohol septal ablation and open-heart surgery. “Whereas most hospitals are good at one or the other, at WMC we are committed to excellence in both procedures, offering patients the best option for their particular situation,” Naidu says.
With this unique technical expertise, outstanding staff and the network’s strong multidisciplinary capabilities, WMC attracts, and improves, the quality of life for HCM patients from all over the U.S.
Pictured above: Mohamed Khayal travels crosscountry to receive care from Dr. Naidu. Also pictured: Noemi Mercado, PA-C S (left) and Angelica Poniros, RCS, FASE.
Cardiac Care At WMCHealth
The Heart and Vascular Institute, a member of the Westchester Medical Health Network (WMCHealth) provides comprehensive, integrated cardiac care throughout the network, focused on providing world-class care close to home.