Stuttering to Save Hearts

ATLANTA At 52, Kathy Burks thought she was too young and too active to have a heart attack.

"I was getting in my car in the garage," Burks told Ivanhoe. "That's when I felt the chest pain. I just sat down. I just dialed 911, and at that time my hand just kinda went numb. I said, it's something with my heart, because my chest has just never hurt like that before."

Her artery was blocked. Standard treatment: angioplasty, where a balloon at the end of a catheter expands a stent and reopens the artery.

But a sudden rush of blood into a reopened artery after a heart attack can damage the heart muscle.

"It turns out that how patients do after a heart attack is largely dependent on the final size of the heart attack or the damage that is incurred on the muscle," Habib Samady, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., told Ivanhoe.

Now cardiologists are testing a new technique called stuttering -- inflating and deflating the balloon several times to restore blood flow gradually.

"Our idea is to restore this blood flow in a stuttering fashion to make the muscle accept the fresh blood in a way that won't cause that much damage," Dr. Samady said.

Studies show stuttering reduces injury as much as 50 percent, improving the odds of recovering.

Two months after surgery, Burks is setting her own recovery pace and heading toward a healthier future.

"That means longer life," Burks said.

The stuttering procedure was developed several years ago at Emory University and has been tested in small studies in France, Israel, Denmark and Canada. Studies involving patients in the United States are still in progress.

Kathi Baker
Public Relations
Emory Health Sciences
(404) 227-1871

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