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Montgomery’s iLab to help doctors find, treat heart troubles

MONTGOMERY (AP)— At the rate potentially lifesaving medical innovations come along, it’s easy to miss these marvels when they appear locally.

Case in point: Baptist Medical Center South is now home to the first iLab Ultrasound Imaging System in Alabama. The system is the most advanced mode of diagnosing and treating patients with coronary artery disease, said cardiologist Dr. Pervaiz Malik, who now uses the iLab regularly.

The technology behind the iLab is one now familiar to cardiologists and radiologists. Intravascular ultrasound allows a physician to see plaque burden on the artery walls as well as inside the artery. This is crucial knowledge when determining the amount of plaque in a specific artery, examining whether a stent is working or needs to be expanded, or deciding what size balloon is needed for cardiac catheterization.

That IVUS innovation, which Malik likens to being able to look beyond the Sheetrock of a room to see what’s behind the walls, was a breakthrough about a decade ago and is now widely used.

But before the iLab, the IVUS was an unwieldy, 250-pound machine that had to be lugged around on a cart each time it was used — a laborious, time-draining process.

The iLab setup, on the other hand, is a single ultra-high-tech unit, a one-stop-shop for the catheterization procedure, control, measurement and playback of results, which are displayed in a digital format.

Having the patient, the procedure, the monitor and the controls all in one compact location makes a world of difference when it comes to diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease, Malik said.

No. 1 killer

According to the National Institutes of Health, coronary artery disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S., affecting more than 13 million Americans. The disease is the result of plaque buildup — a mixture of fatty substances, including cholesterol and other lipids — that causes the arteries that supply blood to the heart to harden and narrow.

Coronary artery disease can lead to angina, chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart does not get enough blood. It can also result in a heart attack, which happens when a blood clot develops at the site of plaque in a coronary artery and suddenly cuts off blood supply to the heart muscle.

The origins of that potentially deadly process are displayed in three dimensions on the iLab’s four flat digital screens, which sit directly above the area where catheterizations are performed, a perfect eye-level for the physician.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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