Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital recently began using potentially life-saving new technology to treat patients suffering from completely blocked arteries in the heart.
“Previously, fully blocked arteries in the heart were treated either with heart bypass surgery or prescription drugs,” said David Portugal, M.D., a cardiovascular disease specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest. “We are excited to now offer a minimally invasive option for patients who want an alternative to open-heart surgery, those who are considered too risky for bypass operations, and others whose surgically repaired arteries have reclogged.”
Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States, and is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people annually.
Pushing open narrowed coronary arteries in the heart with a small balloon and then inserting small, expandable tubes called stents in blood vessels to keep them open has been a major advancement in treatment. However, the procedure cannot be performed for patients with total blockages because a balloon cannot get through.
Today, minimally invasive technology allows doctors to go through or around blockages. The devices used at Memorial Hermann Southwest are the only ones approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this medical condition.
Here is how the technology works: The surgeon uses a special device that looks like a miniature plumber’s snake to clear blockages. If the blockage is soft, like peanut butter, the device can go right through. If the blockage is hard, like concrete, the doctor manipulates the device around the blockage by moving it into the second layer of the artery’s wall. The artery’s tough outer layer is not punctured by the procedure. Once past the clog, the device pushes its way back into the interior of the artery.
“Surgeons at Memorial Hermann Southwest are now among a select group of physicians who have the skill and experience with these unique medical devices,” said Portugal. “We are pleased to bring these new treatment options to our patients.”