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Innovative Heart Procedure Uses Alcohol to Treat Enlarged Muscle

Powell Man First to Receive Treatment at Turkey Creek Medical Center

Tennova doctor highlight copyFor Powell resident, James Lott, 53, everyday life had become a struggle – washing clothes, cleaning house, even walking to the mailbox.

“I could no longer do the things I enjoyed doing due to shortness of breath, chest pain, and extreme fatigue,” he said. “My quality of life had really diminished.”

That’s when James turned to Ravi Mehta, MD, a cardiologist at Turkey Creek Medical Center who is using an unconventional procedure – a shot of basic alcohol to the heart – to improve blood flow in patients suffering from hypertrophic myopathy. This condition causes a thickening and stiffness of the septum, which divides the walls of the heart. The result is an obstruction of proper blood flow in and out of the heart, which causes the symptoms James was experiencing.

“The procedure, called Alcohol Septal Ablation, is an effective, non-surgical alternative to conventional surgical treatment of hypertrophic myopathy, or when medications have not proven effective,” said Dr. Mehta. “Patients have fewer complications and recover much more quickly.”

Alcohol Septal Ablation works by inserting a small catheter tube into the artery of the right leg. It’s pushed up slowly into the heart and into the obstructed artery. A small amount of pure alcohol is released into this area during a span of five minutes, blocking the outflow with a tiny balloon that is controlled by the catheter. The alcohol relaxes and deadens the area of obstruction without having to surgically go in a cut out the muscle.

“What the alcohol actually does is cause a heart attack in a specified area of the heart,” said Dr. Mehta. “This causes damage and deadening to that area. After a short time, due to the damage, the obstructed area will actually thin out. Technically this is just a controlled heart attack.”

During the procedure patients might feel some chest pain and rapid heartbeat. There is also a chance of needing a pacemaker or defibrillator once the procedure is done due to weakening in a portion of the heart muscle. However, this is the same risk as with open heart surgery.

The first Alcohol Ablation procedure was performed overseas in Great Britain in 1994. Very experimental, yet very successful trials have brought it to the United States. Studies have shown that, of the patients who have had this procedure, 90% have a lessening of chest pain and irregular heart rhythms.

The recovery time is also minimal with a three-day hospital stay mainly for monitoring. Most patients are back to work within a few weeks but feel an immediate change within 24 hours of the procedure. James said he noticed a big difference several days after the procedure, and during his recent post-op visit, Dr. Mehta showed him how his heart is now functioning normally.

“I’m so glad I had this procedure; it’s truly incredible,” said James. “Now I can walk normal distances, and I feel great. I just wish I’d had it done earlier as it has been life-changing for me.”

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