Laser Offers Hope For Heart Patients With No Alternatives

DURHAM, N.C. -- Using high-powered lasers to pierce new blood-carrying channels into ailing heart muscle, Duke University Medical Center heart surgeons are testing a promising new therapy for patients with coronary artery disease who have exhausted all other conventional forms of treatment.

Duke is the only medical center in the Southeast using the laser system, which has demonstrated promising results for the eight patients treated at the medical center since October.

"The laser gives us another tool for helping patients for whom we could do nothing else," said Duke surgeon Dr. James Lowe, who heads up the Duke investigation. "These patients typically have had multiple hospital admissions, they can't work or exercise and physical exertion of any kind causes crushing heart pain (angina). They are a tragic and unhappy group of patients because they are so incapacitated and we can do very little for them."

Duke and 12 other U.S. medical centers are conducting clinical trials of The Heart Laser, which was developed by PLC Medical Systems Inc., Milford, Mass. The company recently was granted expedited review of its premarket approval application for the Heart Laser by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To date, more than 350 patients have undergone the procedure in the United States.

The procedure, known as transmyocardial revascularization (TMR), opens new passageways in heart muscle that is still alive, but because of inadequate supply of blood, is not functioning properly.

"The patients we have treated with TMR have seen an average 80 percent decrease in their angina score after three months," Lowe said. "When we compare the scans of their hearts before the procedure and after three months, we can clearly see that more of the heart muscle is oxygenated and functional."

During the

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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