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IJN Introduces New Procedure that Uses Sonic Waves to Treat Severe Calcified Atherosclerosis

Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) revealed a newer and safer method to treat heart patients suffering from severe atherosclerosis.

The procedure, called Intravascular Lithotripsy (IVL) which is FDA approved, makes use of sonic waves to break down hard calcified plaque accumulated in the arteries.

Successfully performed by doctors at IJN here today, this is the first time IVL has been performed in Malaysia.

Atherosclerosis is a condition where cholesterol, fats, and calcium deposits form plaque in the arteries. The accumulation of this plaque causes narrowing of arteries and limited blood flow. When discovered early, atherosclerosis can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication to slow down or even reverse the build-up of plaque.

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More serious blockages meanwhile, are commonly treated using angioplasty and stent placement. This involves using a small balloon attached to a catheter, which is delivered to the site of the blockage through blood vessels. The balloon is then inflated to expand the artery and push aside the plaque; a stent is then placed to keep the artery open for good blood flow.

However, angioplasty may not be useful in severe cases where the plaque has hardened and become calcified.

“When the plaque has hardened to that extent, patients may have to undergo an invasive surgical procedure to treat the condition – where doctors have to surgically remove the plaque or even perform a graft bypass to ensure good blood flow,” says Dato’ Dr. Amin Ariff Nuruddin, Senior Consultant Cardiologist.

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“In this regard, IVL offers us a minimally-invasive treatment option that lessens the risks of surgery for these patients.”

Similar to angioplasty, IVL utilises a catheter with a balloon attached. The difference is the balloon generates sonic pressure waves to break the plaque, instead of just physically pushing it away which may not be possible in this ‘hard calcified’ plaque. This will allow blood vessel lumen expansion and optimize stent deployment at the narrowed vessel area.

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Dr Amin adds that beside the ease of use of the device, it also reduces the trauma to the tissue, as it selectively pinpoints the blockage.

“This in turn minimises the risk of the patient developing other complications following the procedure as compared to the other current debulking devices presently available,” Dr Amin said.

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