Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
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Erin Fairchild
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New imaging technology at The Methodist Hospital helps surgeons perfect coronary bypass procedures

Houston, TX - 5/31/2005

Heart surgeons at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston are using a new imaging system that confirms if blood is flowing successfully through new bypass grafts before closing the patient’s chest.

This simple test eliminates the need for a second surgery to make any needed corrections. Until now, doctors were rarely able to confirm whether bypass surgery had been effective while the patient was still on the operating table. In most cases, only after the chest had been closed could doctors get an image of the heart to see whether blood was flowing through the newly created vessels.

“It is important to be certain that the newly created bypass graft works,” said Mahesh Ramchandani, M.D., cardiac surgeon at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston. “We can now be absolutely sure that our patients are getting excellent blood flow through their new grafts.” 

The new imaging system, called the SPY Intra-operative Imaging System, uses a fluorescent green dye that emits light when stimulated by a very low-energy laser. The injected dye lights up blood flowing through the veins and arteries in real time, an action that can be projected on a screen and saved.

Typically after bypass, an angiogram is performed hours later or the next day. Angiograms can be time-consuming, cumbersome and exposes everyone in the operating room to X-rays. This new technology provides in several minutes the same information gleaned from an angiogram, the current gold standard for visualizing coronary artery blockages.

Coronary artery bypass surgery is the most common open-heart surgery in the country, with more than 300,000 patients undergoing the procedure every year.

Around 5 percent of the time, a graft that initially seems fine doesn’t work well. This could potentially lead to heart attack or limited blood flow, making patients feel weak.  The patient might eventually require another procedure such as coronary stenting or repeat coronary bypass surgery.