A new technology that uses sonic waves to blast calcium deposits out of arteries is now available at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the institution said Tuesday.
The treatment option for advanced heart disease debuted in Central Arkansas on June 16 when UAMS cardiologist Subhi Al’Aref, M.D., used it to successfully open and clear a patient’s severely calcified stent, according to a press release.
Stents are tiny tubes that can be inserted into narrowed arteries that have been pried open with balloons, to keep them open and restore blood flow. But as heart disease progresses, bone-like calcium deposits can form, causing rigidity in the artery and increasing the risk of complications, such as perforation of the arterial wall, while trying to insert or open a stent.
UAMS is using a new treatment called intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) allows doctors to shatter the calcium using sonic pressure waves, or shockwave technology, delivered through a catheter mounted on a balloon. The waves pass through soft arterial tissue and create a series of micro-fractures in the calcium, allowing the artery to be expanded at low pressure and a stent to be safely implanted to improve blood flow, with minimal trauma to normal arterial tissue.
The technology is a novel application of lithotripsy, which has been used for decades to safely break up kidney stones, according to UAMS officials.
“With this technology, we should be able to treat heavily calcified vessels more easily and hopefully with fewer complications,” said Gaurav Dhar, M.D., a cardiologist and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine.
Al’Aref, an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine , used the new technology to treat a 70-year-old woman complaining of chest pain related to an old stent that was 95 percent blocked.
The technology was granted a breakthrough device designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to its approval in February. The coronary application of the technology has been widely adopted in Europe and since 2018, more than 25,000 patients have undergone a procedure using it, according to Shockwave Medical, a public medical device company headquartered in California whose founders adapted kidney stone lithotripsy for the cardiovascular application.