For years, Joseph Mashtaler spent all his spare time exploring the outdoors near his home in Ontario, Canada. Until two years ago when heart disease kept him virtually housebound.
"Even my children who are adults said, 'Dad, what happened? You were invincible.' That's what hit me. I just want to be normal. That's all," said Joseph Mashtaler.
The artery leading to Joseph's heart was totally blocked. Doctors tried a traditional approach to reopen the artery, but the plaque that had built up inside his arteries was too dense for angioplasty to work.
Doctor Bradley Strauss at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto pioneered a new treatment that would give patients with total blockage another option.
"I've been working on a type of chemical Drano to soften the plaque to soften the collagen inside the plaque, so it's easier to cross with our conventional guide-wires and equipment," said Dr. Bradley Strauss, M.D., Chief of the Schulich Heart Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Doctors inject the enzyme into the blockage. The drug softens the plaque overnight.
"We'll bring the patient back the next day and will just use a conventional approach to doing angioplasty," said Dr. Strauss.
Strauss says reopening the artery this way means some patients may not have to undergo bypass surgery at all. For Joseph, that means a faster recovery -- reason enough to celebrate.
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