Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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New Technology Gives Cardiologists a Vivid View of Heart Disease Using the Colors of the Rainbow

June 29, 2007

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"Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound is an extremely useful tool allowing us to better see a patient's arteries and decide if surgery is warranted," said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. Paniagua (right) reviews a patient's images with Celso De Los Santos, Medical Instrument Technician (left) and Biswajit Kar, M.D., F.A.C.C, director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.
PHOTO BY: Bobbi D. Gruner, Public Affairs Officer

 

HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is the first hospital in Texas Medical Center and among the first VA hospitals in the country to use an innovative, catheter-based technology based on color to assess and treat coronary artery disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. Almost 700,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year. Heart disease is a term that includes several more specific heart conditions. The most common heart disease is coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack. Coronary heart disease develops when one or more of the coronary arteries narrow from a buildup of cholesterol. This plaque buildup decreases the blood flow to the heart muscle.

Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound (VHIVUS) is a minimally invasive, catheter-based system that allows physicians to acquire images of diseased vessels from inside a coronary artery. Intravascular ultrasound is generated from the transducer on the catheter tip and the reflected signals from the artery wall produce a color-coded map of the arterial disease inside the heart.

"Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound is an extremely useful tool allowing us to better see a patient's arteries and decide if surgery is warranted," said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. “This tool will also assist our physicians in identifying patients with vulnerable plaques who are prone to having heart attack or unstable angina.”
 
With VHIVUS, different histological constituents of the plaque produce different reflected signals and these are assigned different colors.  For example, dark green means the area is fibrous; yellow and green, fibrofatty; white, calcified; and red, necrotic lipid core plaque. This color-coded map projects color where there is a blockage and assists the physician to understand more fully how a lesion will behave at the moment of treatment, whether it will resist complete stent deployment, or be liable to embolization.  

"We believe the information generated by this new technology is exceptionally important for our patients," said Biswajit Kar, M.D., F.A.C.C, director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. "It reveals important correlations between disease states and underlying arterial structure."

"We strive to offer our veterans the latest and the best in the field of cardiology," said Biykem Bozkurt, M.D., F.A.C.C, chief, Cardiology Section. "However, we encourage our patients to reduce their risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put them at greater risk. This includes controlling their blood pressure, lowering their cholesterol, quitting smoking, and getting enough exercise."

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