Love Your Heart: Devices help clear hardened blockages in the heart

Published: Jan. 31, 2018 at 4:19 PM CST|Updated: May. 17, 2018 at 10:44 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Heart disease is responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States and is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the CDC.

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, a type of coronary artery disease - coronary artery chronic total occlusion. Doctors at Willis-Knighton have been using a specialized procedure for about 2 years to clear the tough blockages.

In the procedures, they use the CrossBoss Catheter (below left) and Stingray Re-entry System (below right) devices.

"Time and intensity, a completely different set of techniques to try to open these blockages, but with the advancement in the equipment and advancement in the techniques and the development of something called the hybrid algorithm, and training from experts around the country, we have been able to come up with solutions to fix these blockages that now yield success rates equal to non-chronic total occlusions. Success rates that are in the 90% range."

About two years ago, Keith Heaberlin noticed something was off with his health.

"A lot of times we'd get trucks in to unload, and I would be unloading a truck and I would be getting very short of breath quickly, and that wasn't common for me. I could usually do the work and it be no problem. I started having shortness of breath, fatigue," Heaberlin said.

His primary care doctor suggested he go see a cardiologist. After several tests, his doctor found he had several blockages in his heart.

"The blockages were 99-100% blocked," Heaberlin said.

He had chronic total occlusions of an artery in his heart, which are different than a clot.

"Cholesterol plaque that has completely occluded the vessel and in doing so, has hardened and has a tough, fibrous cap to it. With scarring and a lot of changes in the cellular makeup of that," said Dr. Bob Martin, a cardiologist at Willis-Knighton.

With a chronic total occlusion, there is no opening to get through to clear the blockage. In the past, they've been cleared through open heart surgery.

Now, doctors at Willis-Knighton are using the special devices to break through the hardened blockage.

"Since we're not able to work through the lumen of the vessel, we have to try to puncture the cap or work inside the architecture of the vessel wall and then re-enter the lumen of the vessel further downstream, and so it is significantly different than a routine angioplasty," Dr. Martin said.

For Heaberlin, he was glad that doctors could offer him a less invasive procedure.

"The other option was for open heart, and I definitely didn't want to do open heart," Heaberlin said.

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