Until a few months ago, Ralph Cutone, a 70-year-old retiree from Sunnyside, could hardly walk more than a few steps without experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath.
Today, he’s able to resume household chores and continue watching over his grandchildren thanks to a new procedure called Transmyocardial Revascularization, or TMR.
New York Hospital Queens is the first medical center in Queens to provide a new treatment for treating patients with advanced cardiovascular disease and the severe chest pain, called angina.
According to the American Heart Association, there are more than 13.7 million people who have a history of suffering from angina or heart attack.
Thousands, like Cutone, have a condition so severe that they are forced to make significant changes in their lifestyle—unable to work—or worse, unable to do simple chores, like walking upstairs, carrying groceries, or washing their own hair. Even getting dressed can be exhausting.
If blood vessels bringing blood to the heart muscle are clogged or damaged, the heart muscle does not get the oxygen it needs—this condition is called atherosclerosis and often results in angina.
Today there are many surgical and non-surgical options available to patients who experience angina with coronary artery disease—including heart bypass surgery, angioplasties, stent placement and treatment with a variety of medications.
“TMR may provide a whole new way of treating severe angina,” says Dr. Wilson Ko, NYHQ’s director of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
“Many people with severe angina have already undergone conventional revascularization procedures like coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty. But the angina remains unresolved and the patient continues to have chest pain. The only other treatment option we can offer them is drug therapy. Here’s where TMR can really make a difference.”
TMR is the latest innovation in treating heart disease. It uses laser technology to create new pathways in the heart muscle. Using short bursts of laser energy, NYHQ’s heart surgeons make small pinpoint-sized channels into the heart muscle. Studies suggest these channels may encourage new blood flow to potentially form new blood vessels.
“Before TMR I had trouble walking, now I have improved significantly and take fewer medications than before,” Cutone said.
In clinical trials, 76 percent of patients who underwent TMR noticed a significant improvement in their angina, compared to 32 percent of patients treated with medications alone at 12 months.
Medicare and other health insurers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, have recently introduced TMR in their coverage and payment policies and other insurance companies will likely follow suit.
Dr. Ko was a member of the surgical team that participated in the clinical trials of this procedure. He can be reached at 670-2627 at New York Hospital Queens.