Laser surgery offers relief for chest pain

December 19, 2006
Lethco Wrenn is not a man who likes to stay still. A traveling recruiter for a school drop-out prevention program, he is on the road traveling up to 175 miles a day. But while in Wilmington in January, a sharp pain started shooting from his shoulder down his back. He tried to sleep, but the pain intensified. He had a hotel clerk call 911 and was rushed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Three arteries supplying blood to Mr. Wrenn’s heart were blocked. Heart surgeon Howard Marks was able to bypass two, but the vessels around the third artery were too diseased to allow a bypass. Dr. Marks solved the problem with a relatively new tool that uses a CO2 laser to drill holes through the walls of the heart to allow blood to flow into it. The procedure, also known as Transmyocardial Laser Revascularization (TMR) has been used at New Hanover Regional Medical Center for two years with great success. “We have had zero complications with this procedure,” said Dr. Marks. “We can do it while a patient is in surgery for a bypass and it only adds zero to five minutes to the bypass time.” Dr. Marks says before this procedure was available, there weren’t any options for restoring blood flow to areas of the heart not accessible with bypass. The result for the patient would be continuing chest pain from angina. “It’s discouraging to do bypass and still have an area with pain,” said Dr. Marks. CO2 Laser Revascularization has been shown to markedly reduce pain from angina and help patients get back to their normal lives. That was very important to Mr. Wrenn, who was anxious to get back o the road. “I love my job,” he said. “I was happy to get to work within a couple of months of my surgery. I was very fortunate to be where I was at New Hanover. The teamwork started from EMS and went right straight through.”For a referral to a heart surgeon at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, call VitaLine at 815-5188 or 1.888.815.5188.