Faced with a growing understanding of the causes of coronary artery disease-CAD (hardening of the arteries of the heart) and its final outcome - myocardial infarction (heart attacks), the cardiology community has worked feverishly to develop new, better and less invasive ways to counter its devastating effects. Coronary bypass surgery was introduced in the mid-sixties (see Facts about Coronary Bypass Surgery), and rapidly became the mainstay in the treatment of symptomatic CAD. While marvelously successful, bypass surgery was then, and remains, a tremendously invasive technique, with significant operative and post-operative risks. As the underlying atherosclerotic process is not altered by surgery, many patients have found it necessary to undergo repeat bypass surgery two or three times, each time carrying a higher risk.
As an outgrowth of original investigations on catheter dilatation (stretching) of peripheral arteries (arteries of the arms or legs) by Dr. Charles Dotter in 1964, Dr. Andreas Gruentzig, of Zurich, Switzerland developed and first performed catheter based dilatation of human coronary arteries in September, 1977. Using a system of coaxial catheters (one catheter inside another), he was able to direct a very thin plastic tube with a deflated pl