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Preventing invasive heart surgery with a ground-breaking surgical technique

Dr Robert Lew with 78-year-old Faye Hurst, one of Peninsula Health’s first patients to be treated with the new surgical technique.

Peninsula Health heart doctors are giving patients with cardiac conditions and diseases a better shot at life, performing cutting-edge surgery that can prevent more serious surgeries, like the coronary bypass.

Cardiologist Dr Robert Lew performed the new shockwave intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) procedure for the first time this week in Frankston Hospital’s catheterization laboratory – currently one of only four Victorian hospitals using this treatment.

“A small percentage of our patients have what we call severe calcified stenosis, which is excess calcium building up on the heart blockages – calcium is a mineral found in our bloodstreams, and it can accumulate greater in  deposits with age,” says Dr Lew.

“IVL uses a shockwave fracturing technique, allowing us to deploy stent more safely and easily, resulting in far better outcomes for the patient.”

“Untreated, calcified coronary stenoses can lead to chest pain, heart attack and even heart failure.”

A catheter pulsates sonic pressure waves to tackle moderate to severe calcified coronary lesions.

Coronary angioplasty – or stenting  – is challenging when a patient has very calcified stenosis in their arteries, making it a high risk strategy for cardiologists in treating a heart condition.

IVL is used in patients with calcified lesions and blockages that are not able to be dilated with the usual balloon. The IVL catheter is inserted through a patient’s wrist or groin, with a thin wire pulsating sonic pressure waves to selectively shatter calcium with the vessel wall.

Once the calcified blockage is cleared through IVL, the ability to insert the stent is improved, easing the patient’s symptoms and avoiding the need for a coronary artery bypass surgery.

“This procedure has only recently been approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently” says Dr Lew.

“I applied through the New Technology committee at Peninsula Health and we were recently granted approval, treating our first two cases at Frankston Hospital this week.”

“At the moment, IVL is not funded and we have strict criteria when selecting patients for this surgical procedure.”

One of those patients is Korumburra 78-year-old Faye Hurst who presented with Angina.  

Faye had an underlying heart problem. In her case it was a combination of cholesterol, fat and coronary artery calcification, a condition brough on by the build-up of calcium in the arteries causing blood vessels to narrow.

“A coronary angiography showed us the severe extent of Faye’s blockage in her artery because of the excess calcification of the calcium in her blood stream,” says Dr Lew.

“Faye underwent shockwave intravascular lithotripsy and we were able to deploy a stent without any problems.”

“The coronary angioplasty or stent would not have been possible without IVL and means Faye does not have to undergo other treatment options for the lesion, like a coronary artery bypass surgery.”

“Faye’s is a great story because due to her age and other factors, it was important for her to avoid surgery.”

“This really is remarkable technology which will make a life-changing difference to an increasing number of our patients with calcium lesions.”

For more information on Peninsula Health Cardiac Services go to the Cardiac Services web page.

You can watch this video to learn more about the Shockwave Intravascular Lithotripsy (IVL) System.