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New infrared tool offers hope to heart disease patients

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New technology at an Indianapolis hospital has the ability to see the inside of coronary blood vessels at up to 10 times higher resolution than previous tests, offering hope for those suffering from coronary heart disease and other related heart issues.

Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital is the first and only facility in Central Indiana using optical coherence tomography, or “OCT.”

Previous technology relied on ultrasound to see the inside of coronary blood vessels. That method could not reliably produce clear and accurate images of the entire stent architecture or areas behind calcium buildups in plaques that clog arteries and cause heart attacks.

OCT relies on infrared light reflected off blood vessel walls to produce high-quality images that are approximately 10 times clearer than ultrasound. The high-resolution images from OCT can also better visualize calcified plaques and better define the adequacy of stent deployment.

“This innovative technology has the ability to transform how we evaluate atherosclerotic plaques and stent placement in patients with complex coronary heart disease,” said IU Health interventional cardiologist Dr. Saihari Sadanandan. “OCT allows us to see where we couldn’t see before by better defining plaques in the coronary arteries and by identifying misplaced or failing stents, both of which, if left untreated, could lead to a heart attack. We can now better visualize the nature of the plaque that needs to be treated and more precisely implant a stent to improve blood flow.”

OCT was largely previously used in mapping and imaging of the human eye, but picked up traction in recent years as a possible replacement for ultrasound imaging of the cardiovascular system. IU Health Cardiovascular had been evaluating the use of OCT in patients undergoing coronary stent procedures and recently officially added the technology to its extensive collection of heart disease monitoring equipment.

Sadanandan, also an associate professor of clinical medicine with the Indiana Univeristy School of Medicine, said coronary heart disease is the narrowing of blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Poor blood flow, which can result from plaque buildup is a leading cause of the disease. Heart disease, which is an umbrella term for several types of heart issues, is responsible for about one in every six deaths in the United States and is the leading cause of death in Indiana.

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