AUSTIN (KXAN) — For years tens of thousands of Americans have been able to avoid open chest surgery to fix heart blockages by instead having a stent implanted to open up the blocked artery. But there was always a bit of guesswork involved in the procedure. Not anymore.
For the first time in central Texas there is amazing 3-D imaging to measure the size and placement of the stent. A tiny catheter, 14-thousandth of a millimeter wide, uses something like a 3-D camera, really a sonogram with light, to take out that surgeon guesswork.
At the Heart Hospital of Austin, Dr. Frank Zidar explains, “We would take a look at the pictures and say that looks approximately like a 2.5 or 3 or 3.5 millimeter blood vessel. With this technology it takes that down to the micrometer level where there’s no estimating the size. You know exactly how big the stent needs to be. It is like the old adage of the carpenter, measure twice, cut once.”
One of the first patients to benefit from the 3-D imaging was told a month ago she had two blockages and needed something done.
Leah Stovall Jones says her symptoms came on gradually, “It sort of creeps up on you. You just don’t have any stamina. You can’t walk a long distance, I’d get tired easily.” When told about the procedure she was ready to get on with it, “I was very positive, let’s do what we need to do. And now I feel pretty good.”
Dr. Zidar feared that her blockage would only get worse.
“Unfortunately with these kind of blockages there’s no Drano to make it better. They steadily get worse and a mechanical fix like a stent with this imaging technology or a new valve is the durable fix for that kind of problem,” said Dr. Zidar.
With her perfectly measured stent, life for Leah is back to the way it should be.
“Well I don’t lose my breath just walking to the soccer game with my grandkids, I can walk there and back now just fine,” said Leah.
The procedure was really the perfect gift. She went into the Heart Hospital of Austin on her 78th birthday.
“I want to tell you they brought me a cake and balloons and sang happy birthday to me. Not all hospitals will do that for you,” said Leah.