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New Technology To View Heart Arteries May Result in Fewer Stents

Posted May 29 2010 12:00am

The latest and greatest in viewing the heart arteries by heart catheterization technology was cleared by the FDA earlier this week.  The new system made by LightLab is the first type of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to be sold to hospitals for use during stenting procedures.

Traditionally, a heart catheterization is an invasive procedure which requires a small wire to be guided up an arm or leg artery to the heart for injection of dye into the heart arteries.  An x-ray would then show pictures of the dye in the arteries and cardiologists would look for kinks that would mean blockages.  This type of artery viewing has several problems since it does not show the artery walls where plaque could be hiding.  The next step in technology used ultrasound on the tip of the wire to be able to view the artery walls.  This procedure is called IVUS (IntraVascular UltraSound).  IVUS is currently a preferred method when there are suspicious and difficult areas of the arteries.

With LightLab’s new OCT technology, almost no radiation is used.  Instead the device delivers “near-infrared light” to the tissue inside the artery and then measures the reflected light.  The images are reportedly some of the best you can expect during a heart catheterization.  The picture seen below can be viewed on the LightLab website along with several others as a demonstration of their quality pictures. You can see the outline of the artery and then the plaque that extends into the vessel.  With such clarity, experts are hoping that fewer stents will be needed to cover the plaque since cardiologists will know the exact areas and sizes of the plaque burden.

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