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Six patients who would normally need open heart surgery for chronically blocked arteries were operated on using methods pioneered by the Japanese to open up their arteries in Hamilton this week.
The operations went successfully, Waikato Hospital's clinical director of cardiology Dr Gerry Devlin said today.
The Japanese were at the forefront of the technique and he was keen to see the methods used by cardiologists in New Zealand, he said.
"They have a success rate of more than 90 percent in patients who might otherwise have open heart surgery.
Each procedure took about 90 minutes.
Dr Devlin said New Zealand cardiologists more commonly used angioplasty, a technique used to dilate an area of narrowing in an artery, with a high success rate.
Completely blocked, rather than narrowed arteries, were much harder to treat by this method with success rates much less at around 50 percent.
"Current practice is to approach the blockage, known as a chronic total occlusion, from above, but this often fails and many patients then have no option but to undergo a coronary artery bypass graft," Dr Devlin said.
The Japanese technique also included an approach to open the blockage via small channels arising from other coronary arteries.
World-renowned cardiologist Dr Satoru Sumitsuji, the director of the Tokushukai Hospital heart centre in Nozaki, Japan presided over a two-day workshop involving nine cardiologists from the Midland region and one from Wellington this week.