Date: 9/14/2001

Community Hospital first to offer safer heart procedure to open clogged arteries

Patients who have undergone bypass heart surgery but still suffer from clogged vessels now have access to a safer, more thorough treatment available at The Community Hospital in Munster.

Building upon an already successful program for treating clogged arteries, The Community Hospital now offers heart patients atraumatic balloon occlusion - an added step to angioplasty and stenting that has been approved for patients whose bypasses are degenerated and clogged.

“Before this procedure was approved, patients whose bypass vessels were clogged with debris had limited recourse for treatment,” says S. N. Makam, M.D., a cardiologist at Community Hospital who performed the first balloon occlusion of Northwest Indiana there in August. “We treated them with stents or various drugs to help keep their vessels open, but the risk of another heart attack was significant because of the debris breaking off and traveling downstream to cause blockages in other arteries. It has been a significant problem, and this is a very important solution.”

In open heart bypass surgery, a healthy vein graft is attached to the artery and the heart as a means of bypassing diseased, clogged vessels, creating a new place for blood to flow. But, over time, even the healthy vein graft can become clogged with mushy debris and buildup, putting patients at risk for additional heart attacks or serious heart related complications.

Balloon occlusion in conjunction with stents is the only safe way to treat these vein grafts, Makam says. During this minimally invasive procedure, the physician makes a tiny incision in the upper thigh, inserts a catheter into the femoral artery and guides it up to the heart. Then, a balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated inside the vein graft near the heart to block blood flow while a stent - a small wire mesh tube - is expanded inside the vessel to keep its walls open. The stent will remain in the body to provide support for the weakened vessel walls.

As the stent is expanded inside the artery, debris becomes compressed and broken up, and there was a chance it may travel through the bloodstream, lodge in other areas of the body and cause heart attacks or other serious complications.


The inflated balloon blocking blood flow keeps the debris from traveling throughout the body. Before the balloon is deflated, the debris is removed with a tiny vacuum. The system is called GuideWire Plus by Medtronic AVE, and it enables physicians to treat these otherwise untreatable grafts in a safe way.

“There are proven clinical results that show a 42 percent relative reduction of heart attacks in people who have had this procedure,” Makam says. “This procedure is not only safer, but it is still minimally invasive and does not require anesthesia.

Today, balloon occlusion is only approved for vein grafts in people who have had heart bypass surgery. But, Makam said, there may be applications for the procedure in the future involving the carotid arteries in the neck.

Anyone interested in knowing more about balloon occlusion at The Community Hospital may call the physician referral service at 219-836-4518 to learn of a doctor who performs the procedure. For information about heart disease, heart surgery or other cardiac-related information, call The Heart Center at Community, or visit