News | February 08, 2009

Modified Angioplasty Procedure May Reduce Heart Damage

February 9, 2009 - Emory University cardiologists are testing a modification of angioplasty known as postconditioning, designed to reduce permanent damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack.

The rush of blood back into the heart after a blood vessel is reopened during angioplasty can produce “reperfusion injury,” caused by biochemical changes in the heart muscle. The modified procedure inflates and deflates the balloon several times in a precisely controlled way, so that blood back flows into the heart gradually and thereby reduces the risk of reperfusion injury.

"This study could help refine a common, well-established procedure performed on thousands of patients every year," said principal investigator Habib Samady, M.D., associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine. "Without involving any additional drugs or devices, it may be possible to reduce damage to the heart muscle in a very straightforward way."

The Emory study — one of the first to test postconditioning in the U.S. — aims to determine whether postconditioning can benefit patients undergoing angioplasty and if so, to define how.

Post-conditioning has been tested in France, Israel, Denmark and Canada. In addition, a 2007 retrospective study of heart attack patients in Massachusetts who, without prior planning by doctors, required several balloon inflations showed that these patients had less damage to their hearts.

The Emory investigators will assess the degree of heart muscle damage in groups of patients treated with standard angioplasty versus those treated with a modified procedure using MRI and echocardiography.

The Emory study began in September 2008 and doctors have already treated several patients with the modified angioplasty procedure, with a total of 40 participants planned.

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