KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 ― The National Heart Institute (IJN) has revealed a new breakthrough method to treat heart patients with severe atherosclerosis.
The procedure, called intravascular lithotripsy (IVL), makes use of sonic waves to break down hard calcified plaque accumulated in the arteries.
IJN said in a statement that the procedure was performed by its doctors yesterday, marking it the first IVL treatment in the country.
IJN senior consultant cardiologist Datuk Dr Amin Ariff Nuruddin said the new procedure was safer than using angioplasty although it may not be useful in severe cases where the plaque has hardened and become calcified.
“When the plaque has hardened to that extent, patients may have to undergo an invasive surgical procedure to treat the condition.
“In that case doctors have to surgically remove the plaque or even perform a graft bypass to ensure good blood flow,” said Dr Amin Ariff.
He also noted that IVL offers us a minimally-invasive treatment option that lessens the risks of surgery for these patients.
Similar to angioplasty, IVL utilises a catheter with a balloon attached.
The difference is the balloon generates sonic pressure waves to break the plaque, instead of just physically pushing it away which may not be possible in the hard calcified plaque.
This will allow blood vessel lumen expansion and optimise stent deployment at the narrowed vessel area.
Dr Amin Ariff said beside the ease of use of the device, it also reduces the trauma to the tissue, as it selectively pinpoints the blockage.
“This in turn minimises the risk of the patient developing other complications following the procedure as compared to the other current debulking devices presently available.”
Atherosclerosis is a condition where cholesterol, fats, and calcium deposits form plaque in the arteries.
The accumulation of this plaque causes narrowing of arteries and limited blood flow.
When diagnosed early, atherosclerosis can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication to slow down or even reverse the build-up of plaque.
More serious blockages meanwhile, are commonly treated using angioplasty and stent placement.
This involves using a small balloon attached to a catheter, which is delivered to the site of the blockage through blood vessels.
The balloon is then inflated to expand the artery and push aside the plaque, a stent is then placed to keep the artery open for good blood flow.