Every year, surgeons use balloons and stents to open the arteries of nearly one million Americans. For about ten percent of those patients, the arteries will re-narrow meaning additional procedures. In some cases, doctors are using a small dose of a common cancer treatment to keep those arteries clear.
For 22 years, Mike Browning has selected the music, checked the equipment and prepared a weekly sermon, which he runs by his wife of 47 years, Mikie. This long-term lay pastor always thought his post at the Christian Assembly Church would last just a few months.
“I’ve been here ever since,” Mike said.
But five years ago, even simple building maintenance became tough. Mike detailed, “When I was doing things actively, I would end up getting short of breath.”
Mikie said, “By the time he came back in he was (panting, panting) and he had to sit down for ten to 15 minutes just to get his body settled.” Mike had clogged heart arteries.
“They did several stents before they finally actually went through and did bypass surgery,” said Mike. Earlier this year, Mike learned his arteries were closing again and more surgery wasn’t an option. But doctors had a new therapy to try called intravascular brachytherapy, IVBT.
During the procedure, a cardiologist reopened the blockage, and a radiation oncologist delivered a precise dose of radiation to prevent cells from overgrowing.
Mark Trombetta, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, explained, “It’s very potent, but it doesn’t penetrate very much. That’s why it’s perfect for these very tiny arteries.”
The doctors said the IVBT added just a few minutes to the procedure with very little risk and it may have added years on to Mike’s life.
Mike said “I’m not ready to go.”
For the past ten years, cardiologists have used drug-eluting stents that have prevented most of the regrowth. But again, for a small percentage of patients, those stents haven’t worked. Doctors say studies show that the IVBT prevents re-stenosis in about 75 percent of these cases.