Health Watch: Shockwaves treat heart disease

What happens when heart disease is so bad that thick plaque makes it nearly impossible to even place a stent in the arteries? Meet one woman who is part of a clinical trial using shockwaves to fracture that plaque. shockwaves treat heart disease

Fifty-nine-year-old Vickey Soennichsen's heart disease had filled her arteries with plaque, narrowing them to the point that while trying to catch a train, she almost collapsed.

"I'm going up the stairs and I'm pulling myself up the stairs trying to get up to the top. I thought, I am just gonna die," said Soennichsen.

Thick plaque buildup constricting her arteries, was the culprit.

Sarang Mangalmurti, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Lankenau Heart Institute, Main Line Health said, "When you see areas of a vessel that look like bites have been taken out, that represents atherosclerosis."

Doctors trying to put a balloon or stent in face blockage from calcium that has hardened. So, for years, they drilled the vessel until they discovered shockwave therapy for coronary artery disease, or CAD.

"Instead of drilling out the vessel, we can use a very special balloon that emits ultrasonic waves to crack or fracture all that calcium," said Dr. Mangalmurti.

The shockwaves are generated from emitters along the context of the angioballoon and connect to a generator.

"That emitter is sparked and that spark creates a shockwave pulse and that pulse is transmitted from the emitter out into the vessel wall," said Dr. Mangalmurti.

Soennichsen's recovery was a welcome relief.

Soennichsen said, "They told me to take a week and I felt great the next day. To know that somebody is watching over you and saying you're going to live, it gives you the confidence to go out and wanna do more."

CAD therapy will continue trials with 400 patients at 50 hospitals and follow patients for several years. Clinicians will study this until July 2022.
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