Sonic wave tech now used into heart care

This technology uses sound waves to break the calcium just as it is used to break calcified stones of gall bladder and kidney stones

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MUMBAI: An old and simple technology to break kidney stones using sonic waves has found its way into heart care.

In the last month, a few city cardiologists have begun using this stone-breaking-based device to ‘breakcalcium deposits within diseased arteries before fixing a stent.

A former cancer patient and a former medical superintendent were among the first elderly patients to benefit from this new technology, whose main drawback at the moment is its high cost. It adds between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh to the medical bill.

The former cancer patient was treated at Surana Sethia Hospital in Chembur, and the other patient at Holy Spirit Hospital in Andheri.

Doctors said the nature of coronary artery disease is changing with increasing aging population.

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“There are more and more complex calcified lesions to be tackled by angioplasty, especially if the patient can’t undergo surgery due to health problems,” said Dr Vijay Shah, who operated on the 73-year-old retired head nurse on January 30.

Usually, cardiologists use ‘high pressure balloon’ or ‘cutting balloon’ that was pushed up via a catheter (inserted in either through the wrist or groin) to crack the calcium deposit in a blocked blood vessel.

These methods would not help much if the calcium was deep or thick. Also, there was risk of perforation. Another technology, called rotablator, that literally chips out calcium deposits has a long learning curve.

“This technology uses sound waves to break the calcium just as it is used to break calcified stones of gall bladder and kidney stones,” said Dr Amit Sharma, one of the cardiologists operating at Holy Spirit Hospital.

The other cardiologist, Dr Brian Pinto, said the presence of calcium around the arteries made it difficult to treat elderly and diabetic patients.

“But the intravascular lithotripsy has made angioplasty easier for such patients,” said Dr Pinto, adding that he has used it for a third patient at the Holy Family Hospital in Bandra.

On January 30, when the retired head nurse started getting chest pain, she was rushed to Surana Sethia Hospital for an angiography that showed heavily calcified long blockage in one of her arteries.

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“She was advised a bypass surgery, but she had just undergone multiple surgeries for cancer and hence refused another surgery,” said Dr Shah, adding that it when they decided to use the new device.

Hospital owner Dr Prince Surana said: “The new technology made the family very happy, but as it is a new technology it costs a lot of money.” But, he added that the cost could come down if more doctors start using it.

However, Dr Prafulla Kerkar, who heads the cardiology department at KEM Hospital in Parel, said: “There has to be a careful selection of patients for this new device.’’

Another doctor said the sonic balloon is big and cannot be used for every Indian patient who traditionally have narrow arteries.