April 1, 2008 Vascular surgeons can address peripheral artery disease by dissolving blood-blocking plaque concentrations with a vibrating catheter. Inserting the catheter into the blocked artery allows it to be maneuvered to the location of the clot, where it breaks down the plaque into small pieces that travel safely away, opening up passages large enough to allow blood to pass through freely, or to create space for a stent when required.
Millions of Americans may be at risk for heart attack or stroke and not even know it. A pain in your leg may be a sign of something much more serious -- even fatal. Ivanhoe explains a new way to fight peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Marjo Madden thought her age was catching up with her! "I couldn't walk any more than 50 feet without sitting down," Madden recalls.
But it wasn't age. It was PAD that was slowing her down. "I had a very bad burning sensation in the calves of my legs," Madden says.
Just as the blood flow in a heart attack patient is cut off by plaque, in PAD, blood flow throughout the body can be cut off. PAD is treated now with a balloon or stent, but for some patients the plaque is too hard, or there's too much of it. Until now, these patients would face invasive surgery … or worse.
"They have to have something done," Imran Mohiuddin, M.D., a vascular surgeon at Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston, told Ivanhoe. "Otherwise, they're at risk of losing that limb. So this is sort of -- we call it limb salvage."
The FDA has just approved a vibrating catheter that gives doctors another tool to help patients who are running out of options. "The catheter works like a miniature jack hammer inside the blood vessel, and it comes up against an inclusion and then it starts vibrating," Dr. Mohiuddin explains. "Through its vibrations, it's able to slowly burrow a hole."
Sensors detect tissue, so even though the vibrating catheter is strong enough to break through plaster, it won't go through tissue. "It breaks up the particles into very, very microscopic particles, as small as a red blood cell," Dr. Mohiuddin explains.
Once the catheter is through, doctors will use angioplasty or a stent to keep the artery open. "Often times, we would have to just abandon that case and actually perform a bypass operation," Dr. Mohiuddin says.
Recovery time is just a day and for patients like Madden, this could be one way to help stop the pain and get moving again! "However much the Lord has given me, I'm going to use it to the fullest," Madden says.
The vibrating catheter was just approved by the FDA for use in the legs. The next step is to get it approved for other arteries. Doctors in Europe are already using this procedure successfully in the heart.
ABOUT PAD: Peripheral artery disease is a condition that affects about 10 million people in the U.S. It often leads to severe blockage in the arteries, particularly in the lower leg. Such blockages reduce blood flow to the legs and feet, increasing the risk of infection, leg ulcers, gangrene and amputation. Those with PAD are also more at risk for other cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke.
ABOUT STROKES: The brain is made up of living cells that require a constant supply of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. Blockage or rupture of the blood vessels supply parts of the brain cause most strokes. A stroke occurs when brain tissue is deprived of blood and brain cells die from the lack of oxygen. Depending on which area of the brain is affected, a stroke can cause vision problems, speech problems, disability, even death.
Traditionally, treatment for stroke-causing diseases involves blood-thinning drugs to prevent clots, but for patients with severe blockage, this may not be sufficient. Some temporary blockages only last minutes or hours, leading to mini-strokes. Mini-strokes are a sign of a serious problem and can lead to a permanent stroke if left untreated.
WHAT CAUSES HEART ATTACKS? Heart attack is the leading cause of death in North and South America and in Europe. It is usually the result of prolonged hardening and narrowing of the arteries that direct blood into the heart. When blood vessels are healthy, oxygen-rich blood flows easily to all the muscles and organs of the body. But if they become clogged by the buildup of fatty deposits on vessel walls, blood can be cut off, killing heart muscle cells. This is called coronary heart disease, and it can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.