Mercy Fort Smith begins laser surgeries for heart patients

Mardi Taylor Mercy Fort Smith
Laser surgery and Dr. Chamaria.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Mercy Fort Smith has introduced a new therapy for the treatment of arterial blockages.

Dr. Surbhi Chamaria, interventional cardiologist, performed the first excimer laser coronary atherectomy at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith on June 2. The new procedure is another tool available to treat patients with blockages. It is particularly useful in patients who develop blockages within previously existing stents.

Mercy Fort Smith’s first ELCA patient had two layers of stents in his coronaries and had been admitted multiple times with chest pain, Dr. Chamaria explained.

“With the help of ELCA, we were able to open up the lesion and prevent him from undergoing open-heart surgery,” she said.

During the procedure, gas lasers generate pulses of short wavelength, high-energy ultraviolet light. The UV light is absorbed into the arteries to help break loose calcium to open up the stent and restore blood flow.

Balloon angioplasty is often less effective in opening up blockages within a stent, Dr. Chamaria said, and patients who are treated with medications may return to the hospital with chest pain. ELCA provides an alternative.

“With our facility having this, we will be able to help a lot of patients who have blockages within their stents,” Dr. Chamaria said. “A lot of times, we don’t want to do open-heart surgery when it involves only one artery that we think we can open.”

In addition to helping Mercy Fort Smith’s heart patients, ELCA will be an option for treating patients with blockages in their legs as well.

“This is a great option for patients who have calcium buildup in the legs. We can laser those blockages out and open up the arteries to restore blood flow,” Dr. Chamaria said.

The lasers are also being used to help extract devices such as pacemaker leads when they need to come out, Dr. Chamaria said.

Mercy Fort Smith is very excited to offer this new service and will continue to provide patients with the best cardiovascular treatment, Dr. Chamaria said.

Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems for four consecutive years (2016 to 2019) by IBM Watson Health, serves millions annually. Mercy includes more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 45,000 co-workers and 2,400 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy’s IT division, Mercy Technology Services, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients from coast to coast.