Roto-Rooter for the Heart

A new medical device is giving some people with heart disease a less invasive alternative to open heart surgery.

Bill Dumbauld, 76, is one of them. He was concerned about shortness of breath and chest pains because of his family history of heart disease.

"On my father’s side, all of his brothers and sisters died of a heart attack. My dad had three heart attacks and he died at 47 and he had a brother who died of a heart attack and he was 44," Dumbauld said.

Dr. Guy Mayeda, of Good Samaritan Hospital, diagnosed him with a blockage in his artery.

Normally, Mayeda would use a minimally invasive procedure to insert a stent in the artery and open up the blockage. But Dumbauld's artery was blocked with hard calcium making it difficult if not impossible to extend the mesh stent.

So Mayeda recommended trying a new device: the Diamondback 360.

"For patients like Mr. Dumbauld, this Roto-Rooter-like device helps the cardiologist safely remove most of the calcium build-up," Mayeda said.

The device spins or rotates at 60 to 120,000 revolutions per minute; sanding and pulverizing the calcium blockage. While it’s spinning, it also orbits the wall of the artery so it can remove the calcium without damaging the healthy tissue.

"It was a type of blockage that the normal tools wouldn’t work," Dumbauld said. "So my doctor said there is a new instrument out there that was just approved by the FDA."

The Diamondback 360 is only available at handful of hospitals across the country. But Dumbauld says it was worth the wait.

"I didn’t realize at the time that the alternative to that was bypass surgery and I started thinking that they'd have to lift my heart out, turn it over and then do the work,” Dumbauld said.

Dr. Bruce Hensel says this is not the procedure of choice for everyone.

Angioplasty or stents without this additional step is easier and may produce fewer risks. But for those with calcified plaque, this new device could reduce the need for open heart surgery.

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