Never Too Old for Procedure that Opens Clogged Arteries, Cardiologist Says
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Loyola University Health System interventional cardiologist Dr. Ferdinand Leya says there's no upper age limit for performing balloon angioplasties.
Agnes Komperda, for example, underwent an angioplasty when she was 96 and just celebrated her 100th birthday.
"She came out with flying colors," said her daughter, Sandra Zarembski. "To me, it was miraculous."
In an angioplasty, an interventional cardiologist guides a catheter (thin tube) through blood vessels to the site of a blocked artery in the heart. The cardiologist then inflates a small balloon at the end of the catheter to reopen the artery and typically places a stent to keep the artery open.
The risks of the procedure, including heart attack, stroke, blood vessel damage and kidney damage, are significantly higher in patients older than 75. But if a very old patient is in otherwise good health, the risks can be kept to acceptable levels, especially if the cardiologist has extensive experience, Leya said.
Leya and most other interventional cardiologists at Loyola University Hospital each perform more than 200 procedures per year, which places them among the highest-volume operators in the country.
Before undergoing her angioplasty, Agnes experienced a life-threatening heart attack caused by a severely blocked coronary artery. "We wanted her to stay alive, so we thought, 'Let's do it,' " her daughter said.
Agnes' cardiologist, Dr. Ivan Pacold of Loyola University Health System, referred her to Leya for an angioplasty and two stents. "Dr. Pacold was always so gentle and kind to my mother," Zarembski said. "He even spoke some Polish to her."
Pacold, in turn, said Agnes "has been one of my favorite patients."
Zarembski said her mother has experienced no significant heart problems since her angioplasty. She can still walk around her apartment and in the summer she takes walks outside.
Agnes turned 100 on May 18 and her family threw a big party for her on May 22.
She enjoys going to church, singing and being outdoors. She continued to garden until she was 96 years old and now enjoys watching the birds.
Her primary-care physician is Dr. Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach of Loyola University Health System.
"Dr. Dlugopolski is such a wonderful doctor," Zarembski said. "She is encouraging to all of us as we care for our mother. She never gives up and we know we can trust her to give our mom the best care,” Zarembski said.
Dlugopolski, in turn, said she wishes everyone had a family like Agnes’ family. "They are so concerned about her and make her a priority," Dlugopolski said. "Agnes is such a warm person and almost always has a smile on her face."
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.