St. David's HealthCare May 01, 2017

Technology Uses Sonic Pressure Waves to Treat Artery Blockages in Leg

AUSTIN, Texas—Heart Hospital of Austin recently became the first facility in Texas and among the first in the U.S. to use the Lithoplasty® System for the treatment of calcified plaque in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). The Lithoplasty System, developed by Shockwave Medical, is an innovative therapy specifically designed to treat calcified leg artery blockages with lithotripsy, a treatment utilizing sonic pressure waves that historically has been used to treat patients with kidney stones.

Matt Selmon, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with Austin Heart, used the Lithoplasty System on the first case in Texas—and the first case not part of a clinical trial in the U.S.—to treat a patient with PAD at Heart Hospital of Austin.

“Peripheral artery disease is a common and painful disease, yet it can be challenging to treat,” Dr. Selmon said. “The Lithoplasty System is a significant advancement in the treatment of PAD, as it provides a new treatment option with potentially less risk of damage or injury to the vessel.” 

PAD is the narrowing or blockage of vessels that carry blood from the heart to the extremities. Left untreated, PAD can lead to painful symptoms or amputation. Balloon angioplasty, which involves inflating a balloon within the artery at the area of narrowing to alleviate the blockage, is a common treatment for PAD. However, many patients do not respond well to angioplasty alone, with failure rates as high as 50 percent due to hardened calcium within the wall of the artery. 

The Lithoplasty System integrates angioplasty balloon catheter devices with the calcium-disrupting power of sonic pressure waves, known as lithotripsy. Each Lithoplasty catheter incorporates multiple lithotripsy emitters activated with the touch of a button after the integrated balloon is inflated. Once activated, these emitters produce therapeutic sonic pressure waves that are inherently tissue-selective, passing through the balloon and soft vascular tissue, preferentially disrupting the calcified plaque inside the vessel wall by creating a series of micro-fractures. When the calcium has been disrupted, the vessel can be dilated using low pressures, thereby enabling even historically challenging PAD patients to be treated effectively with minimal injury to the vessel.

Lithoplasty technology has received regulatory clearance for the treatment of calcified plaque in peripheral arteries in the United States and Europe.

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Heart Hospital of Austin

Heart Hospital of Austin is part of St. David’s HealthCare, one of the largest health systems in Texas, which was recognized with a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2014. Heart Hospital of Austin—home to one of the largest non-academic cardiovascular research programs in the world—is a 58-bed hospital with a comprehensive 24-hour emergency department, an advanced Executive Wellness Program, five operating rooms (ORs), including two hybrid ORs, three catheterization labs and two electrophysiology labs. It is one of the highest performing cardiovascular facilities in the nation, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. In conjunction with its parent campus, St. David’s Medical Center, Heart Hospital of Austin recently ranked among the top hospitals in the nation by earning a five-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s (CMS) new Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating system, and received from Healthgrades the 2017 America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award™, 2017 Patient Safety Excellence Award™ and the 2017 Outstanding Patient Experience Award™—a unique trio of awards that only three hospitals in the nation were able to achieve. Heart Hospital of Austin has been named one of the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals in the nation by Truven Health Analytics for ten years and to Truven's list of 100 Top Hospitals for five years, in conjunction with St. David’s Medical Center.

Austin Heart

Austin Heart is the largest provider of cardiac and vascular services in Central Texas, with 12 full-time office locations, 13 outreach clinics and 42 cardiologists. Austin Heart has been serving the Central Texas area since 1973. Austin Heart’s cardiologists sub-specialize in every diagnostic and treatment area of cardiovascular disease, America’s No. 1 killer—interventional cardiology, electrophysiology, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, vein disease, sleep disorders, imaging, women’s cardiovascular health and a nationally recognized research department.