Limb-saving treatment option

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - There is new hope for the 200,000 people in the U.S. facing amputations this year.  History is in the making at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital this week as the first of its kind procedure to open blocked arteries is performed in Louisiana.

The same concept behind drilling for oil is now being used in a revolutionary life and limb-saving procedure called "total occlusion" using the Avinger Wildcat catheter.  Inventor and cardiologist, Dr. John Simpson says, "This particular device is uniquely designed so that it can actually drill through areas inside a blood vessel that have been completely blocked."

The Wildcat catheter was approved by the FDA earlier this year.  CHRISTUS St. Patrick's Dr. King White became the first physician in Louisiana to perform the procedure and Dr. Simpson was there to follow its success.

"Throughout the procedure," says Dr. White, "you can see the Wildcat catheter turning, drilling through the plaque."  In the operating room, Dr. White used x-ray images on the screen in to track the artery and the path of the Wildcat device.  "It goes into the blocked artery, it crosses the blockage and once we're across," says Dr. White, "then we're able to put our balloon and our stent in and stretch the artery open."

By turning the catheter, the drill spins through this artery that had been 100 percent blocked.  Within a half-hour, the patient who had been in pain with every step she took will be pain free and home by the end of the day!  "The patient results are so extraordinary and it's the physician's fantasy to save somebody's life or to save their limb," says Dr. Simpson, "and this gives us that chance to prevent amputations, which is really extraordinary."

Dr. White says the results he's seen will change this patient's life.  "This way we're able to restore the blood flow and improve her quality of life, even prevent an amputation down the road," he says.

*The total occlusion is an outpatient procedure and only involves an incision that is about two millimeters in diameter. Because the same skills involving cardiovascular treatment are also effective in the legs, cardiologists like Dr. White also work on peripheral arteries.

**With this report we want to stress that if you are at risk for a possible amputation, seek a second opinion! This procedure could save your limb.

(Copyright 2009 KPLC-TV. All rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)