Your Health — Intravascular lithotripsy

Health Reports

Barbara Colella is a restaurateur and an avid traveler. But after months of feeling short of breath, she had a sudden episode that landed her in the hospital.

“In January, I got up and I took my dog to the end of my driveway,” Colella said, “and I felt like a horse had kicked me in the chest.”

Barbara’s coronary arteries were 99.9 percent blocked. Doctors would have performed bypass surgery, but Barbara was also positive for COVID-19. Instead, Barbara was hospitalized for several weeks, which she says was a blessing.

“I am so fortunate that the Food and Drug Administration approved this procedure while I was recovering in the hospital,” she said.

It’s called intravascular lithotripsy, and it works, using soundwaves. First, doctors pass a catheter through an arm vein or leg artery to reach arteries clogged with hard plaque.

Dr. Haroon Faraz, Interventional Cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center explains: “It’s a balloon: inflate the balloon, and then you emit, uh, these waves, which are shattering the calcium, which is in the wall of the vessel into tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny pieces.”

The ground-up calcium remains safely within the wall of the artery, and doctors can continue with a traditional procedure to restore blood flow.

“The vessel becomes very compliant,” Dr. Faraz said. “Then it makes it easier for, uh, the treatment of the blockage with a stent and a balloon.”

As her blood flow improved, Barbara began feeling better quickly.

“It was like, I was a new person,” Colella said.

Back to work and back on the road.

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