JOLIET – Barbara Brockman is looking forward to the day when her new grandson is old enough to sit in a wagon, so she can take him and his 3-year-old brother for a walk.
Thanks to a relatively new procedure for coronary total occlusion, Brockman, 65 and of Wilmington, will be able to do just that. Pain free.
CTO is a complete blockage of the coronary arteries, said Dr. Chris Kolyvas of Heartland Cardiovascular Center in Joliet. When partial blockage occurs, an angioplasty – where an interventional cardiologist inserts a balloon catheter to widen the opening and place a stent – is often recommended, he said. This keeps blood flowing to the heart muscle.
However, if the blockage is complete and present for some time, it can become quite hard, making it impossible to insert a catheter and place a stent, Kolyvas said. Tools are available for blockages in the legs, kidneys and the carotid artery, but because the heart and its arteries are more delicate, this type of tool had not been available for coronary angioplasty.
That’s because, according to a news release from Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center, two new tools from Boston Scientific – the CrossBoss and Stingray – tunnel through plaque and then direct the balloon and stent.
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet is only one of six Illinois hospitals to offer this new procedure using these tools, the release noted.
Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, according to a Boston Scientific statistic sheet.
Yet many patients with CTO often hear that angioplasty cannot be used to treat them and that they must use medication or undergo bypass surgery, the statistic sheet also said.
Brockman was one of them. She wasn’t surprised to hear she had a heart condition, she said. An EKG several years ago was normal, but she knew things weren’t right when she felt short of breath while shopping, doing housework or playing with her oldest grandson.
“I felt pain when I walked; a tightness in the right side of my neck and some minor pain in my chest and my shoulder,” Brockman said. “I knew it was time to visit the doctor.”
Her family physician recommended a stress test, and after seeing Kolyvas, she was immediately sent to Presence St. Joseph Medical Center. An angioplasty was scheduled for the following day.
“That was good, though,” Brockman said. “I didn’t have time to think about it.”
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2000, Brockman had her right kidney removed. A year later, doctors found a spot on the remaining kidney and a portion of it was removed. Brockman is thankful she has been cancer-free, but with less-than-normal kidney function, her doctors didn’t want to stress her remaining kidney with open heart surgery.
So, using this new technique specifically for high-risk patients, which the FDA approved for use in the United States in 2011, according to Boston Scientific, Kolyvas performed the angioplasty. Kolyvas estimated that approximately 30 of these procedures have been performed at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center since September 2013.
Kolyvas stressed that this surgery “is not for everyone” and is only one of several available options. However, Brockman, because of her high risk factor, was a good candidate.
A graduate of Loyola Medical and an interventional cardiologist with Heartland for approximately 20 years, Kolyvas is one of three surgeons at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center who has been trained in the new technology, Kolyvas said.
The other two surgeons are Dr. Govind Ramadurai with Heartland Cardiovascular Center and Dr. George Aziz with Heart Care Centers of Illinois (Joliet office), said Jan Ciccarelli, director of marketing and community relations at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
Brockman said her surgery took about an hour.
According to Kolyvas, it can take up to three.
Brockman said the hardest part was lying still for 12 hours after the surgery. The next day, Brockman was back home with her husband Richard. With the exception of some temporary bans on lifting, she immediately resumed normal activities.
Furthermore, Brockman has no more discomfort when walking, is able to go shopping and most importantly, pick up her grandsons. She feels good about the procedure. Would she recommend it to other potential candidates?
“Oh, yes,” Brockman said, “in a heartbeat.”