Jacksonville Hospital unveils its sound wave method for clogged arteries

At Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside in Jacksonville, existing technology that uses “shock waves” to break up kidney stones has become a new technology to do the same for heavy calcium deposits that restrict blood flow in the heart.

Ascension St. Vincent’s said it was the first hospital in northeast Florida to use the US Food and Drug Administration-approved procedure for patients with hardened arteries.

“We all have plaque build-up that can harden and calcify over time,” said Samer Garas, an interventional cardiologist at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside.

This animation screenshot uses a process called lithotripsy, which uses sound pressure waves to break up calcium deposits in the arteries (the white areas on both artery walls).

This calcification can narrow the artery, block blood flow, and lead to a heart attack or stroke. The calcium deposits also make the artery stiff and can interfere with conventional treatments like balloon angioplasty and stents, which are tiny tubes inserted to hold the artery open, he said.

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In intravascular lithotripsy, doctors use a catheter pulled from an arm or leg that sends out sound pressure waves to break up the calcium. Then they can expand the artery to normal arterial tissue and implant a stent with minimal trauma, Garas said.


“Shock wave lithotripsy can disrupt some of the most hardened calcium deposits,” he said. “This can allow us to achieve good stenting outcomes without the need for more invasive procedures, making some of our more complex patient cases even safer to handle.”

He said that new technologies keep popping up and hospitals keep moving forward.

The Shockwave intravascular lithotripsy system was developed by Shockwave Medical of California. The FDA cited a clinical study of 384 patients, 92 percent of whom received the stent and survived 30 days without a heart attack or other procedure. About 75 percent of the trial patients survived a year without a heart attack or additional procedure.

Ascension St. Vincent’s cardiologists have used the procedure on a handful of patients. Everyone is fine, said Garas.

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Some of these patients “had difficulty conceiving the use of sound waves,” he said. But once they understand how it works to prevent heart attacks and strokes, “they’re happy with it,” he said.

Hardening of the arteries typically affects the elderly, but can also affect younger people who smoke or have a genetic predisposition, he said.

Nationally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, killing approximately 600,000 people each year.

Ascension St. Vincent's is the first healthcare system in northeast Florida to introduce a new treatment for patients with hardened, narrowed arteries.  The treatment uses shock waves to break up calcium deposits that restrict blood flow.

“We always strive to provide our community with the most innovative and effective care options in a safe environment,” said Estrellita Redmon, chief clinical officer of Ascension Florida and the Gulf Coast.

Ascension St. Vincent’s, she said, “has a local heritage of innovation in heart care and is often the first in our community to offer new treatment options to those we serve.”

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