Jerry Eaton of Houston was at home with his wife, Rhonda, when he blacked out. When he came to, Rhonda was terrified and yelling his name. “I didn’t know anything had happened,” Jerry says. “It scared her so much, I felt like Rhonda needed medical attention worse than I did.”
While Jerry hasn’t had heart issues before, heart disease runs in his family. Interventional cardiologist Barry Bertolet, M.D., scheduled Jerry for some heart tests a few days later. Because Jerry’s cardiac CT score came in high and his EKG was abnormal, Dr. Bertolet scheduled him for a cardiac catheterization the next day at North Mississippi Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
As Dr. Bertolet suspected, an artery to Jerry’s heart was more than 90% blocked. “As heart disease progresses, plaque in the arteries evolves into calcium deposits, which can narrow the artery,” Dr. Bertolet explains. “Calcium makes the artery rigid and harder to treat, and it can result in complications for patients undergoing stent procedures.”
Dr. Bertolet used technology called intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) to address the coronary plaque that was restricting Jerry’s blood flow. NMMC became the first hospital in Mississippi to perform IVL on March 4, 2021. Doctors have used lithotripsy for decades to break up kidney stones—and now it’s being used for heart disease.
Dr. Bertolet made a small incision in Jerry’s wrist and thread a thin catheter to his heart. “We slightly inflate a balloon, then we activate the sonic pressure waves to crack calcium in the artery wall,” Dr. Bertolet says. “We then expand the balloon to make way for the stent.”
Dr. Bertolet placed two stents in the artery, and Jerry went home the same day. He recovered quickly and was back on the golf course within a week. A year later, he still feels great.