Holes for the Heart
Reported August 17, 2009
PHOENIX (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Heart disease is the leading cause of
death in the United States. There are stents, surgeries and transplants to
help failing hearts recover, but some patients are too weak to survive the
treatment. A new approach for the sickest patients involves drilling holes
in the heart.
"My teeth are good," Marion Cook told Ivanhoe. "My hearing leaves a little
to be desired. My memory's terrible."
But even at 89, not much can slow Cook down. Competitive skating was his
passion. Now, chest pains force him to use a different set of wheels to get
"My limitation is my heart arteries are not providing enough blood, and I
just can't physically do very much," Cook said.
Cook is weak … and not a candidate for stents or surgery. Doctors now have
another option. Using a specially designed laser, doctors drill holes in his
"What these holes do is they deliver new blood flow to the heart muscle
through these small channels, as well as those holes denervate the heart,
meaning they numb or dampen the sensation of chest pain," Grayson Wheatley,
M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon at the Arizona Heart Institute in Phoenix,
Ariz., told Ivanhoe.
The laser creates microscopic channels that stimulate the heart muscle.
"You think about drilling a hole in the heart, and it might spring a leak,
but they're small channels," Dr. Wheatley said. "We know that these small
channels serve as a stimulus for the heart to try to repair itself."
For patients, it means less pain within days after surgery. Now, Cook says
he's ready to skate away … if only he had a little better balance.
"If it wasn't for that, I'd be going to start putting my skates back on!" he
Cook will settle for his other wheels, as long as he can put his pain behind
The holes created during the surgery eventually close but leave behind new
cells and chemicals that regenerate the heart. Dr. Wheatley says there is no
risk of leaks since the holes created are microscopic. Researchers are
exploring the possibility of injecting stem cells into those channels to
potentially reverse the damage of heart disease.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Arizona Heart Institute