Innovative Cardiac Treatment at Community Medical Center Breaks Up Hard Blockages with Sonic Pressure

A New Way to Open Clogged Arteries

AN INNOVATIVE TREATMENT BREAKS UP HARD BLOCKAGES WITH SONIC PRESSURE.

Like many patients who undergo minimally invasive treatment to clear a potentially life-threatening blockage of an artery under light anesthesia, Jeffrey Macpherson had a sense of what was happening during the catheter-based procedure. But one sensation—a sense of rhythmic vibration—meant more than a vague impression for the grandfather of five. It signified that doctors were breaking apart a potentially life-threatening hardened plaque, or calcification, inside a coronary artery using a groundbreaking new technology.

The 67-year-old Forked River resident was the first patient at Community Medical Center (CMC) to benefit from treatment with the Shockwave C2 Coronary Intravascular Lithotripsy Catheter. Shockwave treatment spared Macpherson the need to undergo more invasive therapy or open heart surgery.

CMC was the first hospital without open heart surgery in New Jersey to begin using the Shockwave system. The technology supplements cardiac catheterization and balloon angioplasty, in which cardiologists unclog a blocked artery by threading a tiny tube to the heart, inflating a balloon that pushes back narrowed blood vessel walls and inserting a stent that props the artery open.

Shockwave takes a different approach, using sonic pressure to crack apart hard calcium lesions that restrict blood flow to the heart but are too rigid to flatten with balloon angioplasty alone. “This is a great leap forward that adds to other tools we have for treating severely calcified arteries,” says Jay Stone, MD, an interventional cardiologist at CMC, Medical Director of the CMC Catheterization Laboratory and member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, who treated Macpherson in October 2021. The procedure also carries a low risk of complications such as serious bleeding and blood vessel damage.

“Shockwave isn’t for every patient,” Dr. Stone says. “But in patients whose arteries are highly calcified, the technology helps us accomplish what we intend to do without transferring patients or bringing them back for further procedures. We can safely treat their coronary artery disease here and send them home with a new stent.”

A Surpring Blockage

Macpherson’s blockage was significant and highly calcified but didn’t cause alarming symptoms. A retired firefighter and longtime emergency medical technician (EMT), Macpherson had initially noticed fleeting discomfort in his chest.

“I wasn’t short of breath or tired,” says Macpherson, who also has prediabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. “Sometimes late at night, I’d have a little pressure in my chest. I’d take a couple of deep breaths, and it would go away.”

He wasn’t especially worried when he underwent a treadmill-based cardiac stress test administered by CMC cardiologist Najib Alturk, MD. But the test indicated a clogged coronary artery. That led to his cardiac catheterization, during which imaging revealed the full extent of the blockage: It was obstructing 95 percent of the artery.

“I wasn’t expecting his blockage to be that severe, especially with his minimal symptoms,” Dr. Alturk says. Discovering the rock-hard calcification, Dr. Stone and Dr. Alturk decided Shockwave was Macpherson’s best treatment option.

Shockwave therapy was approved in 2021 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and CMC cardiologists expect several patients at the hospital to benefit from the new technology each month. The minimally invasive treatment generally requires no hospital stay, and Shockwave patients face only light restrictions on everyday activities while they recover.

Life to the Fullest

Since his Shockwave treatment, Macpherson and his wife, Donna, have gone on with their full and active life knowing he’s less at risk from what could have been a devastating blockage. They are handson grandparents to their youngest grandchild and often spend time caring for the toddler. Macpherson also enjoys working three days a week for a local landscaper. “My days are back to normal,” he says.

Macpherson is now taking blood thinners and seeing his cardiologists for regular checkups. He’s glad he went to CMC, where he and his family have sought care for decades. “It’s our go-to hospital,” he says. Two of his three adult daughters were born at the hospital, he notes, and he and Donna have undergone surgery and other major treatments. “The people at CMC are just great,” he says.

His providers are glad they were able to help with groundbreaking treatment close to home. CMC is currently the only hospital in Ocean County offering Shockwave treatment. “At a difficult time for our patients, it’s important that we can do something like this for them in their own backyard,” Dr. Stone says. “Shockwave advances the quality of what we offer and improves outcomes for our patients.”

Whoever your heart beats for, our hearts beat for you. To connect with a top cardiovascular specialist at Community Medical Center, call 888.724.7123 or visit rwjbh.org/heart.

Jeffrey's story was featured in the Spring 2022 Edition of Community Medical Center's magazine, Healthy Together.

To support a healthy community and positive patient outcomes, make a gift today!

Give Online