YOUR HEALTH: A new treatment for leg and arm pain

SAN DIEGO – A cutting-edge catheter is greatly improving treatment for the estimated eight million Americans who suffer from peripheral artery disease, or PAD.

Clogged arteries in the legs cause pain and increase the chances of heart attack or stroke.

A few months ago, Melody Adamo couldn`t have imagined being able to stroll out her door, pain-free.

"I could only walk so far and my thigh would hurt and even into my hip," she said.   "So I knew I wasn't getting enough circulation."

She also had a foot wound that hadn't healed for five years and she needed to walk to recover from heart bypass surgery.  So when Doctor Mitul Patel suggested using a state of the art catheter that could let him see the plaque buildup directly inside her leg arteries, Melody was all in.

"It gives you very nice detailed images inside of the artery and allows you to focus your cutting on diseased segments rather than cutting healthy part of the artery," said Dr. Patel, an Interventional Cardiologist with the University of California San Diego Health Center.

The Pantheris catheter is a tiny camera that lets doctors see the inside of their patient`s arteries.  It allows them to focus on removing the diseased segments rather than cutting a healthy part of the artery.

Inside the artery, a camera the size of a grain of salt shows exactly where the plaque is.

Dr. Patel is able to cut it away with the blade, which is rotating a thousand times a minute.  The plaque is stored inside the nose cone and removed.

"Long term, our hope is using this catheter does save time because it doesn't require patients to come back for recurring procedures," explained Dr. Patel.  "That's one of the Achilles heel of our current therapy for arterial disease."

Melody says relief was immediate. she still has some discomfort, but it doesn't get in the way of her doing what she loves.

BACKGROUND: Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. When PAD develops, the legs do not receive enough blood flow to keep up with demands. This causes symptoms, the most noticeable and common being leg pain when walking. Other symptoms include a change in the color of the legs, hair loss on the legs, shiny skin on the legs, coldness in the foot or leg, leg numbness or weakness, cuts/sores on the feet that will not heal, erectile dysfunction in men, and painful cramping in the hip, calf, or thigh. PAD is caused by plaques building up in the artery walls and reducing blood flow. Medications, angioplasty, surgery, and an exercise program are the typical treatments for PAD.    (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/home/ovc-20167418)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.