HOUSTON (June 25, 2014)

Tired, tired, tired; that’s how Louis Thomlinson, 67-years-old, felt day in and day out for the past few years.

“I had quadruple heart bypass surgery about 10 years ago, but the blockage in my heart was such that I couldn’t walk 25 yards without taking a nitroglycerine pill,” said Thomlinson, who lives in Missouri City, Tx. “My doctors told me there wasn’t much they could do for me, and I didn’t know what to do.”

That was before Thomlinson found the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Southwest and its potentially life-saving technology for treating patients suffering from chronic, completely blocked arteries in the heart and on aggressive medical therapy.

“Previously, fully blocked arteries in the heart were treated either with heart bypass surgery or prescription drugs,” said David Portugal, M.D., a cardiovascular disease specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. “We are excited to now offer a minimally invasive option for patients like Mr. Thomlinson, whose surgically repaired arteries have reclogged, or those who want an alternative to open-heart surgery or are considered too risky for bypass operations.”

Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States, and is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 385,000 people annually.

Pushing open narrowed coronary arteries in the heart with a small balloon and then inserting small, expandable tubes called stents in blood vessels to keep them open has been a major advancement in treatment. However, the procedure cannot be performed for patients with total blockages because a balloon cannot get through.

Today, minimally invasive technology allows doctors to go through or around blockages. The devices used at Memorial Hermann Southwest are the only ones approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this medical condition.

Here is how the technology works: An interventional cardiologist uses a special device that looks like a miniature plumber’s snake to clear blockages. If the blockage is soft, like peanut butter, the device can go right through. If the blockage is hard, like concrete, the doctor manipulates the device around the blockage by moving it into the second layer of the artery’s wall. The artery’s tough outer layer is not punctured by the procedure. Once past the clog, the device pushes its way back into the interior of the artery.

Thomlinson felt better almost immediately after the procedure in March. “My life is so different today. I go walking every day now, at least a mile, a mile and a half,” he said. “My entire life, I’ve wanted to go to Disney World and I’m taking my wife there this August.”

“We are pleased to offer these new treatment options so patients like Mr. Thomlinson can live their lives to the fullest,” said Sanford J. Lubetkin, M.D., a cardiovascular disease specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest. “Interventional cardiologists at Memorial Hermann Southwest are now among a select group of physicians who have the skill and experience with these unique medical devices."