Mercy Health Physician and cardiologist Timothy McDermott, MD completed the first coronary shockwave procedure in Paducah on December 13. 

Dr. McDermott used an innovative technology called intravascular lithotripsy to successfully clear the heavily calcified arteries of patient Lorine Young, 85, of Paducah. The FDA approved intravascular lithotripsy for the treatment of heart disease caused by severe calcification of the arteries in February of this year and it became available in Paducah shortly before Dr. McDermott performed the first local shockwave procedure.

As plaque lines the arteries, it narrows them, decreasing their ability to supply the blood, oxygen and nutrients the heart needs to function. Reduced blood flow can cause chest pain called angina, as well as shortness of breath, both of which Ms. Young was experiencing. A totally blocked artery can lead to a heart attack. In some cases, the plaque hardens, becoming bone-like and challenging to clear.

“In these cases, a traditional treatment like balloon angioplasty, in which inflate a small balloon in the artery to crack the plaque, may not open the arteries. Atherectomy, a procedure to drill through hardened calcium, is another option but it carries a risk of opening a hole in the artery,” says Dr. McDermott.

Intravascular lithotripsy takes the sonic pressure wave therapy used for decades to break up kidney stones without damaging tissue and uses it to clear calcified arteries in the heart.

“This is a minimally invasive procedure that takes less than an hour to complete with the patient under light sedation in the cath lab,” says Dr. McDermott. “From the femoral artery or the radial artery in the wrist, I thread the novel shockwave balloon to the site of the blockage. Once there, the balloon emits sonic pressure waves, also known as shockwaves, that fracture the calcified plaque without damaging the artery. Once we’ve cracked the plaque, we can clear it and place a stent in the artery to keep it open and restore blood flow.”

Ms. Young recovered well from the procedure, reporting that her chest pain was gone and that she was able to discontinue taking nitroglycerin to treat the pain. Following shockwave treatment, Ms. Young, like most shockwave patients, was able go home after an overnight stay in the hospital.

“I feel good now. I really feel well,” she said the day following her procedure. “I haven’t had any pain. It’s gone. All I’m taking now is a medicine for reflux but no pain medicine at all. I can go home and run my own house for a few days.”

“Coronary shockwave allows us to treat both superficial and deep calcium, as well as long segments of calcium, with almost no risk of perforation,” says Dr. McDermott. “It’s a safer alternative for fragile patients who may not qualify for other artery clearing procedures.”