Largo Med first in Tampa Bay to offer breakthrough surgery for calcium buildup in coronary arteries

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 17:26:31-04

LARGO, Fla. — Largo Medical Center is leading the way in the Tampa Bay area with a new treatment doctors say will allow them to treat patients who would otherwise have remained in pain.

It’s a procedure that was already approved to help break up calcium buildup in the legs, but the FDA approved the Shockwave Intravascular Lithotripsy treatment recently for use in removing calcium buildup in coronary arteries.

Imagine waking up every day with chest pain knowing calcium was clogging your arteries and there wasn’t much doctors could do to help.

“I started with kidney stones, and that’s where the calcium buildup, and that was what was in my arteries also, is the calcium buildup,” said John Karantonis, who had Shockwave surgery at Largo Medical Center.

John Karantonis is 64-years-old, he’s a diabetic, and he’s smoked most of his adult life. That’s something he’s working on.

“I mean, I’ve not totally quit, but I’ve just about,” said Karantonis.

He was at the point of needing open-heart surgery.

“They’d have to take parts of my leg out and bust the chest open, and being a diabetic I don’t heal, so I could still be in the hospital,” said Karantonis.

That’s when his doctor reached out to Dr. Merrill Krolick at Largo Medical Center, knowing he was the first in the Tampa Bay area to offer a newly approved treatment called Shockwave IVL.


“It’s a special therapy that delivers sonic pulse waves to break up calcium,” said Dr. Merrill Alan Krolick, Director of Cardiac Catheterization Lab and Director of Interventional Fellowship at Largo Medical Center.

It was first approved for use in the legs, but the FDA just recently granted approval for the treatment in heart patients.

“This was huge, and it’s a game-changer because it’s allowed interventional cardiologists to treat vessels that normally could not have been treated,” said Dr. Krolick.

Restoring the quality of life safely and quickly.


“Once you do the technique, then you can go ahead and do angioplasty or stents. But it’s allowed a whole entire group of patients that can be treated now,” said Dr. Krolick.

So far Dr. Krolick has performed the surgery on around 20 patients with no complications. His oldest patient was a 97-year-old woman, and his youngest, a 32-year-old.

“32-year-old renal dialysis patient that had polycystic kidney disease, and unfortunately needed a kidney transplant… this allowed the patient to get on the transplant list for a kidney, and the patient has had the kidney transplant,” said Dr. Krolick.

And of course, John Karantonis, who says he felt great within 24 hours of surgery.

“You’ve got the smile on my face right now cause I’m not hurting,” said Karantonis.

All because of medical innovations, restoring John’s quality of life, making him feel even better than before.

“Walking up a flight of stairs is a lot different than it used to be. I used to huff and puff halfway up and have to rest a little bit once I got up 10 or 20 steps, now it’s like I can get up them,” said Karantonis.

You can learn more about the Shockwave IVL treatment by clicking here.