Many of these amputations will now be avoided thanks to a new, minimally invasive treatment that removes the disease-causing plaque and restores healthy blood flow.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) results from the accumulation of plaque inside the arteries that supply blood to the legs. Poor blood flow starves the tissue of oxygen and other nutrients, causing pain in the calf or thigh and, in some patients, open ulcers on the legs or feet that won't heal properly. Left untreated, PAD can cause irreparable tissue damage, leaving amputation as the only treatment option.
Now, thanks to improved diagnostic techniques coupled with a remarkable new treatment procedure, we're in a much better position to help people recover from this disease.
Improved Diagnostic Techniques
Our new CT scanner and advanced MRI equipment have made it much easier to accurately diagnose PAD. These procedures provide clear, real-time images of the blood flow through the legs allowing accurate identification of blockages and precise mapping of the location to be treated.
Because these non-invasive procedures are so "patient friendly," we're seeing a significant increase in the number of symptomatic patients being referred for testing by area physicians. In the past, many patients simply dismissed the symptoms of PAD as part of the normal aging process.
New Treatment Technology
Once we've identified the presence and location of plaque buildup, a variety of treatment options are available. For years, angioplasty has been used effectively to compress excess plaque against the vessel wall, thus restoring the size of the artery passageway, and for some patients this is still the best procedure. But for others, we're using new technology that actually removes the plaque from the wall of the artery.
The procedure involves inserting a narrow catheter into the artery through a small puncture site in the groin. The catheter is guided through the artery to the site blockage, then a tiny rotating blade is activated that actually shaves the plaque from the wall as the catheter travels through the site. The device is then withdrawn back to the top of the blockage, rotated slightly, then passed through the site again, shaving more plaque as it goes. The process is repeated until the entire interior surface of the vessel has been treated. The plaque is collected in the tip of the catheter and removed from the body. By eliminating the plaque, the interior diameter of the vessel is restored to a size that allows normal blood flow.
Most Atherectomy procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, under local anesthetic, and recovery is generally quite rapid. Patients are usually on their feet the day of the surgery and are back to their normal rountines within two or three days.