SSM Heart Institute physician is first in MO to use new safe technology for unblocking arteries without surgery 

Dr. Anish J. ThomasDr. Anish Thomas with the SSM Heart Institute at St. Mary’s Health Center is now the first cardiologist in Missouri to use a landmark new tool – the Mo.Ma Ultra Proximal Cerebral Protection Device – since its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The Mo.Ma device allows more patients with severely blocked carotid arteries to skip traditional open surgery and undergo a much less-invasive stenting procedure with a faster recovery time.

Typically, carotid artery stenting is done using a filter device that is used to trap plaque that sometimes breaks off during the procedure and can travel to the brain, possibly leading to a stroke. In some patients the blockages make their blood vessels extremely narrow. Therefore it is often too risky to safely position the filter across the blockage, thus eliminating the option to undergo a stenting procedure. However, the Mo.Ma device, which utilizes two balloons to temporarily block blood flow in the arteries, is used in place of the traditional filter during the stenting process and is easier to move past the blockages.

“With the Mo.Ma proximal protection device you do not have to worry about problems associated with positioning a filter across the blockage,” says Dr. Thomas.  “Once the balloons of the Mo.Ma device are positioned you maneuver a wire through the blockage, advance the balloon and stent, open the blockage, aspirate the blood with any debris, and then remove the catheter — and the procedure is finished.”

It takes only three to four minutes for Dr. Thomas to place the stent once the balloons are in place. When finished, he uses a syringe to suction away any loose material. The balloons are then deflated and the blood flow to the brain is restored. Patients are not placed under general anesthesia and after the procedure they are typically monitored overnight and discharged the next day.

Carotid Artery Disease and Carotid stenting
The carotid arteries are the main blood vessels that carry blood to the head. There are two main carotid arteries – one on each side of the head. These main arteries divide into two branches – the internal and external carotid arteries. The internal carotid arteries supply blood to the brain. The external carotid arteries supply blood to the face, scalp and neck.

Vascular disease in the carotid artery is caused by buildup of fatty substances called plaque on the inner lining of the vessel. It is most commonly treated with an open surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy, in which surgeons make an incision in the neck, expose the carotid artery, open it and remove the buildup. A few years ago, surgery was the only option for patients with carotid artery disease. Today, more and more patients are being considered for carotid artery stenting thanks to technology like the Mo.Ma device. 

Many people with carotid artery disease are not aware that they have the condition until their internal carotid arteries become severely blocked. Patients may experience transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, sometimes referred to as “mini strokes”) or a stroke as a result of this.

Carotid artery disease is more common in older people. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, the condition affects one percent of adults ages 50 to 59 and 10 percent of those ages 80 to 89. Some risk factors include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance or diabetes, family history of atherosclerosis, obesity and lack of physical activity.

About SSM Heart Institute
A service of SSM Health Care – St. Louis, SSM Heart Institute is the St. Louis region’s most experienced provider of comprehensive heart care. A team of skilled cardiologists and cardiac surgeons provides the most advanced treatment, advanced techniques and unparalleled experience for the best clinical outcomes. Combined with expert nursing and technical staff, this team offers a full range of services to prevent, diagnose and treat heart and vascular disease. SSM Heart Institute services are available at five SSM hospitals located in St. Louis and St. Charles counties. For more information, go to www.ssmhealth.com/heart.