Alenka Brzulja

Vice President of Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions EMEA, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies. Alenka joined Johnson & Johnson more than 20 years ago and has held several roles of increasing local and regional responsibility across Johnson & Johnson sectors. A MedTech enthusiast who continues to challenge what’s possible in healthcare, towards ensuring that each patient can access the technology and solutions that can make a meaningful difference to their health, every day.

In her current role, Alenka leads Biosense Webster, Cerenovus and Mentor companies which develop innovative technologies in the field of cardiac arrhythmias treatment, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke treatment and breast surgery. 

Alenka holds an Economics degree from the University of Ljubljana and obtained her MBA from Hofstra University in New York. She resides in Slovenia with her family.

Many of us know someone affected by stroke. It is the second leading cause of death globally and results in 50% of survivors being chronically disabled. [1] In Europe, the incident of stroke will have increased by 34% by the middle of the next decade. [2] The impact of stroke The impact on individuals and families can be profound. Stroke also has serious economic and social consequences. In the EU in 2015, the direct healthcare costs of stroke were €20 billion, with nearly three-quarters of these costs relating to in-hospital care. [3] The total cost of stroke in the EU has been estimated at €45 billion. [2] Ischaemic stroke is particularly concerning because of its sudden onset and devastating consequences. It accounts for 85% of all strokes and is caused by a blockage cutting off blood supply to the brain or a damaged artery in the brain. [4] Ischaemic stroke is as fast as it is destructive. With stroke cases, time is brain . Seconds can be the difference between a full, independent life or a life of dependency. The quicker someone is seen and treated by a specialist stroke team, the better their recovery. Removing clots A blood clot that blocks or slows blood flow to the brain can lead to stroke. Mechanical thrombectomy (MT)– a minimally invasive procedure – can be used to remove clots from the brain. The procedure requires skilled surgeons and innovative tools to retrieve the clot which caused the stroke. From a patient’s perspective, the outcomes are best if the clot is removed at the first pass as repeated attempts risk complications. The ARISE II study found that faster and complete resolution of ischemic stroke through manual clot removal is associated with improved outcomes; two thirds of patients in this particular study were functionally...
This blog is part of a blog series that s howcases the medtech role in the different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read here more COVID-19 related blogs. More info on MedTech Europe's info hub . Before COVID-19 hit, there were around 11 million people across Europe living with atrial fibrillation (AF). As many as one in four people over the age of 40 will develop AF, which is characterised by an irregular and often fast heart rhythm. It is a chronic condition that severely affects a person’s quality of life, and more than doubles an AF patient’s likelihood of suffering from a stroke. Unlike stroke, the symptoms of AF are less-well known and more difficult to identify, often going undiagnosed, with up to 30% of patients not experiencing any symptoms. With almost 900,000 new diagnoses each year, AF is a serious and growing health problem. This week is World Heart Rhythm Week (WHRW2020), led by Arrhythmia Alliance and the message this year, is simple: ‘Don’t Miss A Beat’. As with all heart conditions, prevention and early diagnosis should be the priority.Sadly, with the onset of COVID-19, access to diagnosis and treatments for many conditions has been delayed or reduced. Meaning many AF patients are going undetected and untreated for longer. However, as lockdown measures begin to lift and healthcare systems reopen, many hospitals will be looking at how they can address the growing number of patients – is unlocking efficiency the answer? Treating more patients by improving efficiency Before the pandemic, some healthcare systems across Europe were already feeling the pressure; long waiting lists, shortages in capacity, aging populations and a reduction in government spending. Some of these pressures have now intensified following the pandemic. Strategic partnerships between the medical technology industry and healthcare organisations may enable hospitals to...
Our recently published report examining the available treatment options for Atrial Fibrillation (AF) across Europe has found that millions of patients suffering with the condition don’t have access to a potentially life-saving treatment — catheter ablation therapy. Currently, 11 million people in Europe are affected by AF, a condition characterized by an irregular and often fast heart rhythm that results in an uncoordinated contraction of the top two chambers of the heart. This arrhythmia increases the risk of other potentially fatal conditions, leading to five times the risk of heart failure, an increase in the risk of stroke cardiovascular mortality. Despite these worrying statistics, the seriousness of AF is critically misunderstood, with a significant percentage of patients mistakenly believing it not life-threatening. Treatment of AF focuses on managing the irregular heart rhythm, improving symptoms and reducing complications — with the overarching aim of improving life expectancy and quality of life. Amongst the options available for the long-term management of AF patients in Europe are antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs) and the aforementioned catheter ablation. The report , which reviewed independent studies of current treatments, highlighted that just half of patients (52%) are well-managed by AADs yet, despite this, only 4% of eligible patients receive catheter ablation — a treatment that’s considered almost 10 times more effective in delaying AF progression than AADs. And this is not the only data about catheter ablation in the report that’s worth flagging — the potential positive results brought about by this particular treatment option are far-reaching, touching efficacy, quality of life, Adverse Events and healthcare costs. Let’s look at these statistics in more detail. There are sustained results with up to 94% patients free from arrhythmia recurrence after one year and 48% free from arrhythmia after four years. There is a greater improvement in patients’ quality...