Area Hospitals Adopt New Cardiac Methods

Article excerpt

Area hospitals have adopted newly approved methods for diagnosing heart attacks and treating blocked arteries without surgery.

Southwest Medical Center's Chest Pain Center had adopted a test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to detect heart attacks. The test measures a heart-specific protein, troponin T, which is released into the blood at even low levels of heart damage due to heart attack or myocardial infarction.

National studies report more than 4 million patients with chest pains are evaluated at hospitals each year. With this test, Southwest hopes to reduce the estimated 34,000 patients annually released from emergency rooms with an undetected heart attack.

"Troponin T is specific to the heart muscle and this new test is very sensitive to even low levels which are released into the blood in the event of an MI," said Dr. Dave Stanley, a Southwest pathologist. "We hope to build clinicians' confidence in our own tests rather than just published data alone."

The method for treating blocked arteries without surgery is being practiced at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The treatment uses a new device, the Palmaz-Schatz Coronary Artery Stent, which was approved by the FDA in August. It was designed as a complementary alternative to bypass surgery and balloon angioplasty.

The device consists of a regular angioplasty balloon surrounded by a small stainless steel covering. It is threaded via catheter through a patient's artery to the blockage, where the balloon is inflated and the blood flow re-established. The balloon is then removed, leaving behind the steel "stent" which acts as a scaffold to support the artery wall.

Officials said about 30 percent of patients under regular balloon angioplasty will redevelop blockages in the artery within six months, while a small number of others will experience a collapse of the artery during the angioplasty procedure, requiring emergency bypass surgery.

"This new device improved the odds of avoiding these complications, by as much as 25 to 30 percent in the case of late vessel re-narrowing," said Dr. Aaron Kugelmass, OU assistant professor of medicine.

Because the stent is composed of stainless steel, it can only be used in medium to large arteries, and patients are required to be on blood thinner medication for four to six weeks afterward. . Dr. Mark Allen Everett, chairman of the OU College of Medicine's Department of Dermatology, has been elected president of the American Board of Dermatology. He is also vice-chairman of the Committee for Dermatolopathology. …