Angioplasty at 25

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From a Homemade Balloon to 2 Million Patients a Year
Created on Kitchen Table, Device Is Now Leading Treatment for Heart Disease

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Twenty-five years ago, a young physician, Andreas Gruentzig, inserted a catheter into a 38-year-old man's coronary artery, inflated a tiny balloon the doctor had fashioned in his own kitchen, successfully opening a blockage and restoring blood flow to a human heart. Today two million angioplasties are performed worldwide each year.

Angioplasty has been shown to be the optimum emergency treatment for 40% of heart attacks and recently was recommended as the standard of care in the Journal of the American Medical Association, according to Burt Cohen, creator of

"Gruentzig built the first balloons with Krazy Glue," says Cohen. "His home-made catheters were sold out of a garage window. He and other pioneering physicians were viewed as eccentrics. The history of angioplasty is one of scientific vision and individual risk."

Gruentzig ushered in a new era in medicine: minimally invasive, catheter-based treatment. The build-up of arterial plaque that restricts blood flow occurs throughout the body. Treating arteries with balloons, stents (tiny scaffolding placed within arteries) and other miniature devices is fast replacing open surgery.

Actress Sharon Stone had a titanium coil placed, via catheter, to stop bleeding in her brain. Vice President Cheney, comedian Drew Carey, playwright Edward Albee, and talk show host Larry King all had coronary angioplasties.

Catheters are being used to open blockages and place devices in the kidneys, stomach, legs and neck: relieving pain, improving quality of life, and lessening the chance of stroke. "If you are one of the million-plus Americans who will suffer a heart attack this year, and you're lucky, you'll receive an angioplasty when you arrive at the emergency room. Not all hospitals are equipped yet to offer emergency angioplasty but researchers recommend trying to get to one that does," says Cohen.

All this resulted from the unprecedented idea, initially dismissed by the medical establishment, that it is possible to perform complex procedures within arteries via tiny catheters.

View videos of Dr. Gruentzig, his first patient and others at, a nonprofit website with information, discussion boards, current research and clinical trials.


CONTACT: Burt Cohen, Producer of, +1-415-776-9134, or