Archive for November, 2017

We know, The Mysterious Alibaba cave opens  with a voice password . . . legend  tell us it had unlimited hidden treasures. It would appear , CTOs mimic the cave in several ways. What is inside ? Should we open it ?  Can we come out safely ? Do we have any magical password in cath lab to get across the complex tissue boulders ?,   every cardiologist would love to have one !

chronic total occlusion alibaba cave corsair fileder xt pronova guideliner micro catheter asahi cart reverese cart cross boss sting ray

Dear CTO,Open Sesame . . . I have come with all the wires you love !  Please let me in !


“CTOs are never an emergency  . . .but please realise  we can very easily create one  while resuscitating a dead snake  ! 

Don’t think hard on evidence , then , you may not do a single case of CTO in your life .Forget all those pessimistic trials like OAT,COAT, etc and the recent ones DECISION-CTO. Ignore all guidelines. Ask your patient, and his insurance company , if they are willing , reserve the cath lab and get ready.

Pre-procedure  planning

Spend at least a hour to analyse the CTO Imagery one day prior and create n action plan.

Keep knowledgeable staff for assisting , but never ask for fellow colleagues help because it hurts our ego !  Cardiac surgeon’s back up is a welcome addition even if it’s on paper.

If possible , try to ask the patient genuinely ,what is his symptom at least once !  before starting the procedure. 

Timing of the procedure.

Don’t post a CTO patient  either on a busy Monday morning  or lazy Friday afternoon.

Hardware Inventory

The wires ,catheters, the balloons form the essential tool box .There is more than a  handful of coronary automobile companies manufacture this .It is all about metallurgy , knowledge of wires, catheters , and tip thickness, (Bullet shaped as in Asahi ) , slipping , hydrophophic or philic,  polymer coating , trackability, pushability , memory etc etc.

Guide wire tip morphology is as Important as the  Lesion characteristics !

Analysis of the lesion (Probably most important)

Unlike conventional PCI we have no initial target.We need to poke first and find the target next ! Distal vessel status  is most important ( Careful review of retrograde filling  through collaterals could give more information than CT angiograms .Calcification, diffuse disease can be a real hurdle)

Lesion morphology

Softness of lesion has to be felt (Requires good wire which has sensor (Paccinian corpuscles and Merckle disc ideal ?) I guess the cortical tactile feel is as vital as the  intervention expertise .I know at least one diabetic colleague of mine who finds it difficult  to cross a CTO  and admits he never found it easy to feel  the lesion through the wires . Autonomic dysfunction ?)

Operator  expertise

(Note: These are like reading  swimming guidelines , you can’t learn in the shores reading books ! you have to plunge !)

Many techniques are proposed .Sequential approach (Ironically experts are licensed to use  specialized wired wires directly .Beginners  are advised to go with non specialized hardware and escalate step by step) Some centers are blessed with new age weapons like cross Boss and sting ray that confront the lesions in multiple frontiers. (Carpet bombing?)

CTO playground. : Its essentially a coronary contact sport with expert septal surfing , tunnelling, knuckling , kneeling , bending . Of course , It  can end up in a gratifying win in few , still most of us tend to play this game without a goal (post !)

They are basically about poking the head of the lesion and trying to cross an occluded vessel  millimeter  by mm towards the presumed distal vessel in an Imaginary trajectory. Proximal cap, central core ,the blind tunnel , distal capsule and exit points each must be successfully conquered.

CTO crossing is  the ultimate capacity of the operator to realise and feel the position of the wires in true lumen and their confidence levels in their conviction!

Multiple wires up to three are used some times to poke the lesion two of them are used to shut the false tracks and the other one is expected to enter the true lumen (Looks too good on theory !) . These are referred to in as many terms like parallel wire see-saw , CART ,Reverse CART etc .Retrograde techniques do help us but has no magic solutions.The lumen contrast , guide wire tip movement and its  side branch entry  would help.

Tacking complication :Always anticipate , it’s not negative mind set to look for it  !

Keep pericardiocentesis kit , covered stents , micro  snares and other retrieval devices ready in cart. Your support staff should be well versed with what is happening around them. Some of  the dye leaks and stains are safe .They imply minor perforations that form  sealed hematomas  (The plane of perforations also matters. myocardial (ab-pericardial ) leaks are well tolerated .Distal perforations are also safe as long as CTO is not opened ) Online echocardiography should be readily available to monitor  pericardial space leak.

When bleed into pericardial space is life threatening , A comical, but life saving option is to close the artery and restore the CTO  its original state and come out of the lab quietly ! 

Newer Imaging guidance : Can be useful , still may not matter much  when considering the interventional acumen .

CTO PCI : Time as therapeutic end point.

CTO is not an endless game with out time frame .In my opinion it shouldn’t cross 45 minutes each as in a  soccer  game with a brief  strategic time out and of course with liberal use of ,yellow and red cards

Future directions

Japanese are the ones who pioneered  CTO Interventions . We expect more Innovations ! Is it the forward looking IVUS ? It is akin to tunneling for underground metro train with GPS guiding .If you can mark the proximal and distal  points , rest will be be taken care by mortised self tunneling catheters from Robotic arms steered by sophisticated algorithms.

Final  message

CTO PCI remains a real Interventional challenge. We are often double blinded  in both directions (antegrade as well as retrograde ). Needs much effort ,time, hardware and most importantly a non fatigued mind and body. The benefits we get may vary  between  gratifying to outright mediocre .Of course , it surely satisfies operator ego and express pride and courage !

Is crossing and stenting  a CTO  synonymous with true success ?

Yes it is , for the cardiologist and  the hospital  . . . I’m not sure about it for the patient !

In this  sense , CTOs  mimic the mysterious Alibaba cave that tempts us with Imaginary treasures but can trap us with a wrong password !


* Who should CTO PCI  ?

I have seen  young , enthusiastic cardiologists with Immature support staff attempting CTO in remote sub- urban settings ! Though patience and expertise are essential ingredients, some amount of organised training and hardwares make CTO PCI safe and effective. Enthusiasm and affordability alone can’t be an Indication for this complex set of coronary lesions.



I still wonder why  this vital paper was never published , it was just presented in the Annual ACC conference March 2017



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One big hypertension trial called SPRINT was published in 2015, has caused major delayed aftershocks in the hypertensive world now in 2017.

The new guidelines by 2017  AHA/ACC is based primarily on SPRINT data which in my opinion has so much flaws it shouldn’t have been accepted for publication in the first place. !(Intentions and Aim of a study can never be questioned even by most prestigious journals you know !)

  • The flaws begin right  from study design itself. Why diabetic population was excluded from the SPRINT trial is not clearly answered in the true interest of public.The Ironical argument is diabetic patients had no benefit with intensive BP management in ACCORD study. So why waste another study ! Funny is in’t? 
  • When CVD risk profile is intimately linked with these two major entities (DM/HT) it defies sense to  exclude  one them from the study, which is going to assess population based total  CVD risk reduction.
  • Another dramatic confounder is , 90% of SPRINT patients were taking baseline anti HT drugs. So, the original pressure of these people (No,they are patients really !) should have been high . (If you apply this logic , SPRINT study conclusions will not apply for general population who are healthy and free from drug intake! )
  • SPRINT trial also concluded there is little benefit in acute MI and renal protection. The main benefit that tilted in favor of SPRINT was preventing episodes of cardiac failure which was defined by the primitive , subjective , ever unreliable symptomatology of exertional dyspnea.

The ultimate spoiler in SPRINT 

The modality of BP measurement in SPRINT trial can be  termed as as single fit case for rejecting the study in the world hemodynamic court !

We know BP is a continuous variable, between machines , timing of measurement, persons who measure , hand to hand , beat to beat variation etc etc. The SPRINT BP data was accrued  high-profile “Research standard BP” measured by oscillometry method. Please hold your breath , . . these  machines never measure either systolic or diastolic BP.It detects the peak oscillations from brachial artery when the cuff is deflated and ask the vendor dependent fuzzy logic  algorithm to do a guess work of  SBP and DBP , which  proudly flashes them in various LED colors.

The jury is still out whether the methodology is validated or not. SPRINT data should be thoroughly sanitized with a true clinic BP which would  virtually  mean , recall of this (de) famed study !

Final message

How can such a flawed study be taken as reference for  creating major revision of  Hypertension guidelines? 

This question is to be asked in chorus by all respectable physicians and cardiologists.The World health organisation -WHO , custodian of  human health and the silent watch “puppy” has more work to do ! . . please WHO , wake up and bark !


1.A Randomized Trial of Intensive versus Standard Blood-Pressure Control The SPRINT Research Group  N Engl J Med 2015; 373:2103-2116 



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Cardiologists at confused cross roads !

Perils of  limited Intellect & Infinite greed  

When not so appropriately trained cardiologists  do Inappropriate things “use becomes misuse” . . . then, it won’t take much time for science to become total abuse. That’s what happened with the murky world of coronary stents .No surprise, it’s time to firefight the healers instead of the disease !

Now ,Comes the ORBITA study . Yes , it looks like a God sent path breaking trial that spits some harsh truths not only in cardiology, but also in behavioral ethics .Let us not work over time and hunt for any non-existing loop holes in ORBITA. Even if it has few, it can be condoned for sure as we have essentially lived out of flawed science  for too long  Injuring many Innocent hearts !

ORBITA pci vs medical mangement drsvenkatesan courage bari2d ethics in stenting auc criteria inappropriate coronary stenting placebo effect of stenting acc aha esc guidelines chronic st

Yes , its enforced premature funeral  times for a wonderful technology !

GIF Image courtesy http://www.tenor.com

Meanwhile, let us pray for a selective resurrection of  stenting in chronic coronary syndromes  and stop behaving like lesser professionals !


Extremely  sorry . . . to  all those discerning academic folks , who are looking for a true scientific review of ORBITA , please look elsewhere !

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