The world of modern medicine is constantly changing and evolving with new procedures and tools coming out seemingly every year. Everyone loves getting a new toy, cardiologists like Dr. Ray Allen are no exception.
"When I first started there was a new balloon or gizmo that was available every year or two and the technology of the balloons and the stents kept getting smaller but we've been a little bit static over the last 5 to 8 years." Said Dr. Allen.
But that's all changing.
Clearing plugged arteries are a daily chore in Avera Heart Hospital's catheterization lab. While the processes may be similar, no two blockages are the same.
"When an artery has been closed for more than three months we then refer to it as a Chronic Total Occlusion." Said Dr. Allen.
Chronic Total Occlusions (CTO) happen when the arteries in the heart grow and branch off into collateral or secondary vessels. But because they are branches, there's typically less blood flow and they can easily become blocked without showing many symptoms.
"We can open those most of the time pretty rapidly when they're acute or of recent onset but sometimes they narrow gradually and close off and there may or may not be damage to the heart." Said Dr. Allen.
Obviously if your coronary arteries were blocked you would definitely feel it with a heart attack or stroke. While a CTO is not immediately life threatening they should be cleared out, but it's not that simple.
"Up until recently it's taken a long time to open, or those arteries have not been accessible. So the treatments before were either medicines or bypass." Said Dr. Allen.
That's where Dr. Allen's new toys come into play. As technology advances, the stenting instruments become smaller making previously impassable blockages, passable.
"This technology uses a technique to go around the blockage and sort of through the sidewall of the artery but not exiting artery and that's where the finesse of the procedure comes in." Said Dr. Allen.
Then like traditional catheter stenting, the balloon will inflate inside the artery wall and allow Dr. Allen a clear path to remove the blockage and allow blood to flow properly. The procedure can be done right here in the cath lab, where as before patients would be forced to go under the knife. It's just one more option doctors have at their disposal to provide patients with the best in quality care.
"It's an extension of what we've been doing and hopefully it's going to help a few more people down the road." Said Dr. Allen.
Technology can be lifesaving, but you should still do you part and do your best to adopt a healthy lifestyle full of exercise and a healthy diet. For more information about the Avera Heart Hospital just call 877-AT-AVERA.