KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) has revealed a newer and safer method to treat heart patients suffering from severe atherosclerosis.
The procedure, called Intravascular Lithotripsy (IVL), which is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), makes use of sonic waves to break down hard calcified plaque accumulated in the arteries.
It was successfully performed by doctors at IJN on February 22, making it the first time IVL has been performed in Malaysia.
Atherosclerosis is a condition where cholesterol, fats and calcium deposits form plaque in the arteries. The accumulation of plaque causes the narrowing of arteries and limited blood flow.
When discovered 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.
However, angioplasty 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 – whereby doctors have to surgically remove the plaque or even perform a graft bypass to ensure good blood flow,” says Dr Amin Ariff Nuruddin, senior consultant cardiologist.
“In this regard, IVL offers 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 this ‘hard calcified’ plaque. This will allow blood vessel lumen expansion and optimise stent deployment at the narrowed vessel area.
Besides its ease of use, the device also reduces tissue trauma, 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,” Dr Amin said.