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Use Of Laser On Plaque In Coronary Artery Called Important First Step

March 10, 1988

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) _ A woman whose right coronary artery was 90 percent clogged underwent a new non-surgical laser procedure for vaporizing fatty deposits previously used only on leg arteries, a cardiologist said Wednesday.

While Dr. Leonard Nordstrom said he stopped the treatment and inflated a balloon to enlarge the opening before there was evidence that the laser had removed any tissue, he called the procedure an important first step.

″We put a fiber down there, we gave it energy and we did it safely,″ Nordstrom said of the procedure performed Tuesday at Methodist Hospital.

″I don’t want to overstate what we’ve done,″ Nordstrom said. ″I think in cases to come we’ll have good documentation that we have removed tissue.″

Lasers had been used previously during open heart surgery, he said.

In this non-surgical procedure, a specially-designed catheter, or slender tube, is inserted through a small puncture in the groin and guided into the coronary artery.

Once positioned, a direct beam of laser energy is directed at the arterial blockage.

The catheter is then used to position the balloon in the newly enlarged opening. The balloon is inflated and spreads the remaining blockage apart to restore circulation.

The hour-long procedure, during which Nordstrom used one-second bursts of laser energy for two to three minutes, was the first coronary application of the system developed by GV Medical Inc. of Plymouth.

GV’s LASTAC system combines the use of direct laser energy, fiberoptics and balloon angioplasty catheters, the company said.

The procedure was pioneered on larger leg arteries. More than 130 procedures have been performed on leg arteries since May 1986 and the system is now in use at 17 sites around the world, GV said in a statement.

With the leg arteries, the success rate in opening the vessel was better than 90 percent, ″with a success percentage rate in the mid 70s on keeping the vessels open,″ said James Grabek, GV president and chief executive officer.

″Where we are with the heart now is just to determine if it’s even possible to use it,″ said Nordstrom, who has performed 41 of the procedures on leg arteries. ″My bias says yes. But before you can walk you have to crawl, and I think we’re in the crawling stage.″

The Food and Drug Administration has given permission for 10 test coronary procedures, Nordstrom said. The findings will be reviewed by the FDA before approval is granted for additional procedures, he said.

Janis Konze, 38, of Chaska, said she had no second thoughts about being the first patient to undergo the new procedure, even though she experienced nausea and vomiting while the heart artery was blocked off for the procedure.

″Everything went fine,″ said Konze, who said she first experienced heart pain last summer and consulted a doctor about a month ago.

″I feel wonderful. I’m anxious to go home,″ Konze said before her release Wednesday. ″I expect to be back to work within a week.″

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