Charlton Memorial is First in the Nation to Perform Life-Changing Cardiac Procedure

Dr. Sood, Jen and Team

“Jennifer’s case is a testament to the comprehensive care Southcoast Health provides. I'm glad that this procedure is an available option for patients like her, and am proud that it helps distinguish the cardiovascular care provided at Southcoast Health.”

Southcoast Health’s Heart and Vascular Center at Charlton Memorial Hospital was the first in the nation to perform a life-changing cardioneuroablation procedure.

Dr. Nitesh Sood, Cardiac Electrophysiologist and Director of the Atrial Fibrillation Wellness Program at Southcoast Health, performed the procedure on 32-year-old patient Jennifer Link of Middletown, R.I. Link was diagnosed with third degree – or complete – heart block this May after suffering from a lifetime of heart pauses … sometimes stopping her heart for as long as eight to 10 seconds, as detected by Dr. Christopher Abadi, Medical Director of Southcoast Echocardiography Services, via Holter monitor early in Jennifer’s patient journey.

Though uncommon for a person Jennifer’s age, the typical treatment for this diagnosis includes implanting a pacemaker.

“Jennifer is a very young, healthy person whose heart was not cooperating, and pacemaker can compromise a person’s life, both physically and mentally,” Dr. Sood said. “Pacemakers need to be changed every six to 10 years, and that would require repeated surgeries. It would be a constant reminder to her that something is wrong.”  

Exploring additional treatment options, Dr. Sood reached out to Turkish doctor Tolga Asku via Twitter regarding a procedure Dr. Asku invented that modifies the nerve endings in the heart. Through his research into Dr. Asku’s work, Dr. Sood discovered that two of Dr. Asku’s patients had similar diagnoses as Jennifer. The two physicians met virtually to discuss the case and agreed that the procedure would be in the best interest of the patient.

“When making clinical decisions in complex cases such as this, we employ what we call ‘the heart team’ approach,” said Dr. Peter Cohn, Physician-in-Chief of the Southcoast Health Heart and Vascular Center. “After exploring the case and all options, Dr. Ramin Davoudi (Medical Director of Electrophysiology), Dr. Arnoldas Giedrimas (Electrophysiology Physician), Dr. M. Wajid Baig (Chairman of Credentials), Robert Geide, RN (Director of Interventional Cardiology Service Line), George Barth, RN (Associate Chief Nursing Officer), Dr. Sood, and myself unanimously decided to move forward with the five-hour procedure — which was successful.”

 “I had a smooth recovery and have not experienced any pauses or a single heartbeat drop since the procedure,” Link said. “It has completely changed the way I live my day-to-day life.”

Jennifer Link

“I’m so thankful for every single doctor, nurse and staff member who took care of me and had my best interest in mind,” she said.

Read More about Jennifer’s personal story and see a behind-the-scenes video here.

“When I initially went to the emergency room after fainting, I was specifically told to come to Charlton Memorial because the cardiac team here is top tier, which was quickly shown and proven to me. The entire time I felt at ease, taken care of, and confident in my care.”

For the next two years, Jennifer will wear a tiny heart monitor, placed just under the skin, that records every beat, immediately notifying Charlton Memorial’s Heart and Vascular Center of any aberrations.

“Jennifer’s case is a testament to the comprehensive care Southcoast Health provides,” Dr. Sood said. “I’m glad that this procedure is an available option for patients like her, and am proud that it helps distinguish the cardiovascular care provided at Southcoast Health.”

Dr. Sood is looking forward to publishing this case in the Heart Rhythm Journal.

“Our region has never been shy about being innovative or cutting edge, and that is in line with our local, leading healthcare system. Some of the most advanced procedures and innovative new treatments in medicine today are happening here,” Dr. Cohn said. “With the clinical excellence and compassionate care delivered by providers like Dr. Sood, Southcoast Health will continue to provide world-class care to our community.”

Check out The Providence Journal and WPRI 12 for more coverage of this first-in-the-nation accomplishment.