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MyConsult Prepares Patient for Pacemaker Removal at Cleveland Clinic

Bruce Wilkoff, MDAs one of the largest and most respected healthcare systems in the country, patients travel from all over the world for treatment at Cleveland Clinic. However, the expense of travel in addition to having to take time off of work and away from family means that long distance patients often wish to abbreviate their schedule in Cleveland. Obtaining a MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion can help to prepare patients and their care team in advance, in order to expedite treatment as much as possible once a patient arrives at Cleveland Clinic.

Denver resident Amber Freed discovered Cleveland Clinic’s MyConsult program while researching options to fix or remove her malfunctioning pacemaker. Amber’s pacemaker was implanted several years prior, after she was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia.

Over the years, Amber learned to manage her condition using natural methods, and tests proved she rarely needed the device. However, Amber’s pacemaker had been suddenly increasing her heart rate without warning, prompting her cardiologist to discover that the device’s battery was losing its charge, causing the pacemaker to malfunction. He gave her three options: have the pacemaker and all its components removed, leave it implanted without a battery, or have the device itself removed and the wires left in place.

“I didn’t know which option to pick,” says Amber. “I didn’t want to leave the device implanted unnecessarily, but I was also extremely nervous about undergoing surgery that could lead to further complications. Cleveland Clinic’s MyConsult program seemed like a great opportunity for me to gain a new perspective on this tough decision.”  

Bryan Baranowski, MD, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic, reviewed Amber’s case and provided his expert opinion. “The options he provided me with were the same as those given to me by my cardiologist in my hometown, but I felt more comfortable and prepared to make my decision after taking advantage of the MyConsult program,” she says.

After careful consideration, Amber decided to have her pacemaker and all its components removed. Following an exceptionally positive experience with the MyConsult program, there was only one place she could see herself having the procedure: Cleveland Clinic. Amber was connected with Cardiologist Bruce Wilkoff, MD, who specializes in removing pacemakers and flew to Cleveland with her husband and sister by her side to undergo the removal procedure.

“The MyConsult program can help empower our patients who are not local to navigate complicated decisions regarding their treatment prior to their visit to Cleveland Clinic,” says Dr. Wilkoff. “There’s a risk to any medical procedure and an upside and downside to every option. Patients who travel here from a distance often have a very compressed time-frame, which can put a lot of emotional pressure on the situation. So it’s really helpful if we’re able to narrow down their options in advance. I think the greatest value of the MyConsult program is that it provides the patient with a better education and understanding so they are able to really evaluate their options and ultimately make the decision that is best for them.”  

After her surgery, Amber flew back to Denver and returned to work within a week of having her pacemaker removed. She has not had any heart arrhythmia episodes since and says she is feeling fantastic. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the MyConsult program which ultimately led me to Cleveland Clinic to undergo the pacemaker removal procedure,” Amber says.  

Dr. Wilkoff says he sees the MyConsult program as another extension of Cleveland Clinic’s mission to put Patients First. “We as providers have a responsibility to take care of whatever patient is in front of us and this is just another way our patients present,” he says. “For me, the greatest value of the MyConsult program is that patients that I can specifically help, maybe differently than anyone else in the world, now have that access that they didn’t have before. We’re all in this to help people. The MyConsult Online Medical Second Opinion program is one innovative way we’re able to connect with patients who need us most.”