In recent years, advertisements for cholesterol medications have begun infiltrating America’s flat-screen TVs. But medication – and high-definition technology – aren’t the only advancements you should care about. Today, patients at Adventist Midwest Health can undergo the equivalent of open-heart surgery with no more than a few nicks in the skin.
The cholesterol being fought by those ad-worthy medications is actually in the form of plaque. When your cholesterol is high, a fatty substance (known as plaque) builds up in your coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply your heart with oxygen-rich blood and nutrients. When that happens, it can limit blood flow, causing the artery to become damaged. Over time, a lack of blood flow can cause chest pain and even a heart attack for arteries that are completely blocked.
A bright future despite blockages
In the past, options for someone with coronary artery disease were limited to traditional open heart surgery. Now, minimally invasive procedures can treat patients successfully, without opening up the chest.
“Minimally invasive heart procedures are saving patients’ lives and getting them back on their feet quicker than open heart surgery,” says Dominick Stella, MD, an interventional cardiology and vascular medicine specialist with Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. “We take pride that our experienced team can give patients treatments at a local hospital that can save them from surgery.”
Below, Dr. Stella describes three minimally invasive procedures being done at Adventist Midwest Health to treat blockages in the coronary arteries:
- Angioplasty uses a catheter to guide a small balloon up to the blockage. When the balloon is inflated, it smashes the blockage into the surrounding walls of the blood vessel. When the balloon is deflated and removed from the body, the plaque becomes a part of the blood vessel wall. And at the same time, the busted plaque enlarges the inner diameter of the artery, allowing blood to flow more easily.
- Stent placement is similar to angioplasty except a metal stent is placed on top of the balloon. When the balloon deflates inside the blockage, the stent stays behind. “The stent keeps the blood vessel open, and new drug-coated stents help prevent the growth of tissue within the arteries,” Dr. Stella says.
- Rotoblation grinds away plaque by using a Rotoblator, which is also guided to the blockage using a catheter. The device looks like a tiny football, called a burr, with a diamond-encrusted tip that spins at almost 200,000 revolutions per minute inside the artery to break apart the blockage. The small broken segments then pass through the system of the heart.
With all three procedures, patients avoid the scars and pain associated with open heart surgery, as well as the lengthy recovery time. For example, patients who undergo open heart surgery stay in the hospital for one week after the operation and it takes months for them to return to normal activity. With these minimally invasive procedures, patients stay overnight and are back to normal activity within a week.
To decide which minimally invasive procedure is right for each patient, specialists at Adventist Midwest Health use a multidisciplinary approach. “We work closely with heart surgeons and physicians to decide what is best for each patient,” Dr. Stella says. “And because of technological advancements, almost all patients are candidates for a minimally invasive procedure.”
Optimal care close to home
Interventional cardiologists perform minimally invasive heart procedures at all four Adventist Midwest Health hospitals. “We work especially close with each of the emergency departments to ensure patients get quality care when they need it most,” Dr. Stella says. “Because these minimally invasive procedures can be performed so quickly, even if a patient is having a heart attack, we can open the blocked artery over 95 percent of the time.”
Dr. Stella stresses that time is the most important factor in saving a life and chest pain should always be taken seriously by calling 9-1-1. “The quicker we can open up a blocked blood vessel, the better chance we have at minimizing damage to the heart,” Dr. Stella says.
For more information, or to find a physician, call us at 866-533-7968.