Not A Moment to Waste
Lawrence Pence is no stranger to heart attacks, having had his first of three 20 years ago. So when the retired Air Force colonel found himself suffering from tremendous chest pain recently, he did not waste any time getting to Virginia Hospital Center.
When he arrived in the ER, he was seen by Virginia Heart’s Edward W. Howard, M.D., who knew immediately that Col. Pence was having a life-threatening heart attack. “We found he had extremely complex vascular disease, including totally occluded arteries above and below the knee in both legs,” Dr. Howard recalled. “The heart attack placed him at great risk of vascular surgery with a large abdominal incision, so I inserted a catheter into Col. Pence’s wrist and guided it through his arteries to perform a balloon angioplasty to open the critical blockages in his legs.”
The emergency procedure stabilized Col. Pence to the point that Dr. Howard could schedule additional follow-up procedures to insert stents further down in Col. Pence’s leg arteries. Those were done from the femoral artery, however, because current technology could not reach that far from the wrist.
Col. Pence does not mince words when it comes to his praise for Dr. Howard’s care. “He knows what the hell he is doing,” said Col. Pence. “He knows his business, but he doesn’t talk down to you. He treats you like you are the most important issue in his life.”
Thanks to these interventional procedures and on-going care that includes medication and lifestyle management, Dr. Howard said that at 77 years old, Col. Pence’s prognosis is positive. “Although further similar endovascular procedures may eventually be required in his future, his chance or requiring surgery or worse is very low,” he said.
Given its low risk of bleeding and superior comfort level for patients, Dr. Howard now performs more than 90 percent of his coronary interventions, including those for the most urgent and complex cases, via the radial artery.