Interventional cardiologists at MCG Health are using lasers and drills to break up total blockages in the coronary arteries, called Chronic Total Occulusions… but it’s not heart bypass surgery.
Now, there’s an option for people with C-T-O’s… who aren’t good candidates for surgery because of complications from diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
WJBF’s Jennie Montgomery explains.
At age 43, Tania Sapp-Walker was stopped in her tracks because of heart problems. Specifically, she -had- a heart attack and didn’t know it.
“Evidently, there are enzymes in the body that will detect heart problems and they said those enzymes were really high and they showed that I had, in fact, had a heart attack– but I didn’t have any symptoms.”
And while doctors say that’s pretty common in women, she did have a significant risk factor: she’s diabetic and on dialysis three days a week.
“When they detected it, one of the major arteries was 99.6% clogged and not functioning.”
Dr. Paul Poommipanit is an interventional cardiologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
“So what we’re doing is we’re injecting dye into the arteries to the heart.”
You’re looking at that blocked artery right now.
“She wasn’t necessarily a surgical candidate because the vessel was too small because it had been blocked. It’s supposed to come all the way down to the tip of the heart here, and you see a little bit, but there’s really not that much there.”
Dr. Poommipanit mapped out the procedure to clear Sapp-Walker’s blockage.
“We would actually just push a wire across all this narrowing down to the tip of the heart.”
An angiogram scopes out the blockage so doctors see what the artery looks like, which helps them choose the right stents.
Jennie: “In the OR, it looked like there were people in a control room, like behind a glass?”
“There are about four screens you need to look at when you’re doing something like this, in addition to the screen and where your wires are going, and where your catheters are and everything else- so it’s a lot to pay attention to. There’s someone else back there kinda helping you out in that respect, and telling you if something is not to your liking.”
The procedure can take hours. Most patients go home the next day.
“And this is basically the final result.”
Jennie: “That doesn’t even look like the same thing!”
Since the procedure, Sapp-Walker doesn’t have to take any medications and she can breathe more easily.
“There were times that I might have needed oxygen and had to go the the hospital, and get oxygen, and I haven’t had that so it’s helped a lot.”
And thanks to this technology, Dr. Poommipanit says some other CTO patients have a choice when it comes to traditional treatment with medications.
“I think with these newer techniques, newer catheters and newer devices there’s another option out there for a lot of patients.”
Patients must discuss with their doctors the potential benefit versus risk. The goal of this procedure is to improve quality of life, and that in itself can impact how long patients live.