A respite to the heart

Doctors can create channels in human heart to relieve chest pain

Published: Monday 15 September 1997

surgeons have developed a method of blasting holes through heart that would help relieve heartache in patients. Clinical trials show that laser beams can be used in creating holes in the ailing heart of human which can prove to be extremely beneficial for the people suffering from acute heart problems. Eight surgeons in the us recently published their results after using a 1,000-watt carbon dioxide laser to punch 20 to 30 holes through the hearts of the deceased ( Scientific American , Vol 277, No1).

The arteries of human are clogged when they take rich diets. In such cases, doctors clean the arteries employing methods such as balloon angioplasty, stenting or open heart surgery. Stenting is a method to fix a metal cylinder (stent) in the arteries of patients which allows smooth flow of blood through the arteries. However, such process does not apply to patients whose hearts are very small or their vessels are already heavily patched. Gradually, the heart gets sicker due to the lack of oxygen which later results in chest pains and heart attacks.

In usa, doctors conducted a study on 200 patients out of which 80 per cent people had been suffering from severe heart problems at rest or during small movements. Whereas, angina had been affecting the remaining patients during moderate exercise, such as climbing stairs. The results show that after one year, nearly 30 per cent of the patients felt no chest pain, even during hard exercise. The cases of other patients improved considerably after receiving the treatment.

The impressive results have prompted several companies such as PLC Systems, Franklin and California based companies namely Eclipse Surgical Technologies and CardioGenesis to develop the laser systems. They may soon get permission to market the device in the us. E clipse claim that surgery using its holmium-based laser alleviated regular chest pains for 86 per cent of the patients in its clinical efficacy trial. Contrary to that, the problems of only 12 per cent patients improved after undergoing drug therapy. According to Israel J. Jacobowitz, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, for angina treatment, the procedure called transmyocardial revascularisation can prove to be extremely beneficial.

Nearly three per cent patients who undergo the surgery never leave the hospital, says Douglas Murphy-Chutorian, chief executive of Eclipse Surgical Technologies. But the treatment can certainly prove beneficial for about 20 per cent of the patients who die due to such problems.

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