On Monday, you will face a pile of rubble. There is a narrow gap big enough to drive through.
On Tuesday, you’re walking down a tunnel and find a giant rock blocking the entire tunnel. There are no gaps.
Now translate these examples into your health. The sinuses are the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Debris and stones are blockages that can cause problems – manifested by symptoms.
Clogged tunnels aren’t good for traffic flow, and clogged arteries aren’t good for your heart.
In cardiology, the stone is called chronic complete obstruction (CTO). This means that the artery is completely blocked. It occurs in 15-20% of patients with heart disease. Sometimes there was a complete blockage for months or even years. However, only 3-5% of these patients undergo stenting or bypass surgery, so there is a real need to help untreated patients.
Undiagnosed and untreated CTO can lead to symptoms and affect quality of life.
The effect of total congestion
Arterial occlusion occurs unevenly. Treating a 97% occluded artery is much easier than treating a chronically 100% occluded artery. Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and shortness of breath may be similar.
Sometimes when the vessels become completely blocked, a new blood supply develops around the blockage. This new blood supply, called collateral, does not deliver as much blood to your heart. This can lead to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
If you experience these symptoms, a stress test can help determine whether it’s caused by a blocked artery or something else. The first step is to see a doctor.
Fifteen years ago we had one way to treat chronic blockages – try to check the thread from the frontal blockage. These procedures were 70% to 75% effective, which made some doctors not recommend the treatment.
Today we have many treatment options. We can sometimes bypass blockages or work backwards with our hearts. Now we are seeing 90% – 95% success rate.
If you are told that your artery is 100% blocked, it is important to know that it is treatable.
Patients should understand that successful treatment will relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Clinical studies are underway to monitor the long-term results of this type of treatment, but so far we are seeing very consistent results.
Most doctors will refer you to a CTO center when you need treatment for chronic total obstruction. UT Southwestern has the potential to become a center of excellence for CTO treatment.