‘Game-changing’ technique offers new hope for patients with 100% blocked arteries

WATCH ABOVE: In Wednesday's edition of Health Matters, Su-Ling Goh looks at a new procedure to treat people with severely clogged arteries and has details on a recall of some child car seats.

About 20 per cent of patients with coronary artery disease develop a complete blockage in an artery. Keith Hutchings had two.

The Sherwood Park, Alta. man had chest pain and low energy. An angiogram showed two of his arteries were 100 per cent clogged with plaque.

“I was wondering, ‘Ok, how am I still functioning?'” said the 59-year-old.

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Dr. Minh Vo explained Hutchings’ body had grown tiny new bypasses for minimal blood flow. To restore it to normal, Vo’s team performed an antegrade dissection re-entry; an alternative to conventional angioplasty.

“It’s like if you have a plugged toilet, most people will try to jam through that area,” the interventional cardiologist said. “What we do is we get into the wall.”

READ MORE: 6 Canadian game-changing ideas for global health care 

The new technique involves sending a mesh tube inside the artery wall, around the blockage, and back into the centre of the artery. That creates a new path for blood flow.

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The whole procedure takes less than two hours. And there’s no cutting; the tube enters through a tiny hole in the patient’s wrist.

“We have shown that it can be done through the wrist, with a two-millimetre hole,” Vo said. “That’s not been done before.”

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“How (Vo) did all that is amazing,” Hutchings said. “I was back to work the following week.”

READ MORE: Why doctors are warning young women about heart attacks related to stress, pregnancy 

Vo says before this technique, some patients with completely clogged arteries faced open heart surgery. But most had no option except drugs to reduce their pain.

“Ninety per cent of people across the world, even in Canada, are not treated,” Vo said. “So they suffer.”

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Vo is the first in the world to use the new TrapLiner catheter in this way and is now teaching the technique.

The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute is one of five centres in Canada offering antegrade dissection re-entry.