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Cardiac ‘jackhammer’ destroys arterial plaque

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is the first acute care center in the area to offer a new high-tech procedure that can take the place of bypass surgery for some patients.

A vibrating catheter blasts its way through stoney plaque deposits the same way a jackhammer cuts through concrete, says Dr. Erick E. Calderon, of Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants, one of the first doctors in Florida trained to use the new device.

Developed by FlowCardia, Inc, the CROSSER Catheter system is revolutionizing treatment of Chronic Total Occlusions or blockages that have completely closed off circulation in arteries in the heart or legs.

The catheter was a godsend for Craig Carney, 59, who recently moved to Lakewood Ranch with his wife, Vicky.

Carney has always loved to exercise, but started to get this burning sensation in his legs, particularly when he was walking uphill or on an inclined treadmill.

Not a complainer, Carney, 59, lived with the problem until he saw Calderon. Given Carney’s past history of heart disease, Calderon felt it was imperative to run tests which revealed blockages in both legs. All but one could be treated with a catheter or thin tube threaded into the blocked arteries and stents inserted to hold the artery walls open. But the artery in Carney’s lower right leg was 100 percent blocked with a plaque deposit as hard as stone.

If it hadn’t been treated, Carney was told he faced possible amputation of his leg.

The CROSSER Catheter offers patients who have total blockages in their hearts or legs another option than bypass surgery, Calderon said.

Carney had the minimally invasive outpatient procedure March 4. He entered the hospital at 6:30 a.m. and by mid-afternoon he was home. He was walking immediately and three days later, Carney was back on his treadmill.

“It works,” said Carney. “I don’t have any problems with my leg.”

Measuring 1 millemeter in diameter, the CROSSER Catheter tunnels through the blockage, vibrating at 20,000 cycles per second. Once through, Calderon can then use the catheter to insert a balloon via a thin wire to widen the artery and a stent to hold the walls open.

Awake during the procedure, Carney said he watched the catheter do its work.

“I remember Dr. Calderon saying, ‘Look at that flow,’ when the blood started to rush through the new opening,” Carney said.

“Dr. Calderon is unbelievable, He kept me off the operating table.”

Studies show the catheter has an 80 percent success rate in restoring blood flow and zero risk of puncturing or damaging an artery wall.

“I use the CROSSER Catheter technology as a frontline therapy,” Calderon said. “For our patients, this is a favorable alternative to bypass surgery, keeping patients out of the operating room. These are old, tough blockages and the evidence is overwhelming that opening these long-standing blockages is beneficial to long-term survival and overall patient health.”

More than one third of patients who undergo tests for coronary artery disease have totally blocked arteries in their hearts and legs, studies show.

Unfortunately, because the blockages build up over time and symptoms of shortness of breath, pressure, fatigue or pain while walking or exercising come on slowly, many patients adjust to their increasing limitations, attributing them to arthritis or old age, Calderon said.

He warns patients are taking big risks by not getting their symptoms evaluated.

Kim Wilson, chief executive officer of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, said the hospital is committed to being ahead of the curve.

“Having this procedure further underscores our commitment to bring cutting edge technology close to home for Lakewood Ranch residents,” Wilson said.

Donna Wright, health and social services reporter, can be reached at 745-7049.