YOUR HEALTH: Using shock waves to unclog the most clogged arteries

YOUR HEALTH: Using shock waves to unclog the most clogged arteries

WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania – What happens when heart disease is so bad that thick plaque makes it nearly impossible to even place a stent in the arteries?

59-year old Vickey Soennichsen’s heart disease had filled her arteries with plaque, narrowing them to the point that while trying to catch a train, she almost collapsed.

“I’m going up the stairs and I’m pulling myself up the stairs trying to get up to the top,” she explained.

“I thought, I am just gonna die.”

Thick plaque buildup constricting her arteries, was the culprit.

“When you see areas of a vessel that look like bites have been taken out, that represents atherosclerosis,” explained Dr. Sarang Mangalmurti, interventional cardiologist at Lankenau Heart Institute.

Doctors trying to put a balloon or stent in face blockage from calcium that has hardened.    So for years, they drilled the vessel until they discovered shockwave therapy for coronary artery disease, or CAD.

“Instead of drilling out the vessel, we can use a very special balloon that emits ultrasonic waves to crack or fracture all that calcium,” said Dr. Mangalmurti.

Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago is one of the medical facilities involved in the clinical trial.

The shockwaves are generated from emitters along the context of the angio balloon and connect to a generator.

“That emitter is sparked and that spark creates a shockwave pulse and that pulse is transmitted from the emitter out into the vessel wall,” Dr. Mangalmurti explained.

Vickey’s recovery was a welcome relief.

“They told me to take a week and I felt great the next day.”

“From the results that we’re seeing after we do the treatment, we’re seeing significantly improved vessel compliance. That means the vessel has opened up after the balloon angioplasty portion of it largely because we’ve fractured and weakened that calcification.”   – Dr. Sarang Mangalmurti

CAD therapy will continue trials with 400 patients at 50 hospitals and follow patients for several years.

Clinicians will study this until July 2022.

But Vickey is already sold on it.

“To know that somebody is watching over you and saying you’re going to live, it gives you the confidence to go out and wanna do more.”

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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