Edward cardiologist uses unique procedure to successfully treat rare coronary artery condition.
The Naperville Sun
Brachytherapy offers hope for persistent artery blockage
October 6, 2009
Veteran broadcaster Eric AuCoin was beginning to think "Here comes that heartache again" was to be his lifetime theme song.
He'd had quintuple heart bypass surgery in 1993, but new blockage in his coronary arteries was occurring every few months, causing a return of the chest pains and shortness of breath he'd had before the bypass.
Over the next 15 years, AuCoin had several angioplasties, a procedure in which a balloon-tipped catheter was threaded through his coronary arteries to the blocked areas. The balloon, when inflated, knocks out the blockage.
In all, his angioplasties involved placement of more than a dozen stents, self-expanding mesh devices used to keep the artery propped open.
The introduction of drug-coated stents in the early 2000s extended the period between AuCoin's symptoms by a few months, but the angina always returned. Nitroglycerin pills brought some relief.
"I'm just one of those people who's prone to developing a lot of plaque," said AuCoin.
"That's common among diabetics."
Diabetics are also more likely to experience restenosis, another type of coronary artery blockage, caused by scar tissue forming around a stent. This was AuCoin's problem.
Fortunately, AuCoin's cardiologist, Louis McKeever of Midwest Heart Specialists, is on the medical staff at Edward Hospital in Naperville, which in mid-2009 began offering the treatment of choice for recurrent restenosis: brachytherapy. The next closest hospital to AuCoin's Yorkville home that offers this treatment is in Springfield, according to McKeever.
The procedure requires sophisticated radiation equipment and the pooled skills of a radiation oncologist, a radiation physicist and an interventional cardiologist.
"While only a small percentage of cardiac patients will need this procedure, it's great to have it available for those who continue to develop narrowing in the arteries even after a second or third stent," said McKeever.
Brachytherapy uses radiation to inhibit cell growth and turn off the scarring process so the artery won't reclog. The procedure seems just like a standard angioplasty from the patient's perspective.
In brachytherapy, though, a ribbon of radioactive material is delivered through the catheter to the blocked area. The ribbon is removed from the site after several minutes.
"My procedure was on a Thursday in July, and I was out of the hospital the next day," said AuCoin.
"I was pretty much back to my routine on Monday. My recovery's been excellent."
At 66, AuCoin serves as a broadcasting consultant and still produces and co-hosts a television show about marriage on the Total Living Network. He may have worked hard to earn a shelf full of Emmy, Dove and Grammy Awards, but AuCoin's battle with heart disease has given him a new perspective.
"(Knowing you have heart disease) gives you a quite a jolt. I realized that work, work, work isn't everything," he said. "I'm now sure to allow enough time for relaxation and for family."
Brachytherapy brings him new hope for having lots of time to do just that, minus the chest pains.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services