For approximately 18 million Americans, it’s a disease that affects nearly every step. Walking down the sidewalk or up a flight of stairs causes painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles. Left untreated, it’s the leading cause of amputation in patients over 50.
“Those highest at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD) are smokers,” says Nebraska Medicine vascular surgeon David Vogel, MD. “However, diabetes is also an important risk factor, along with obesity and advanced age.”
PAD is a circulatory problem caused by the build up of plaque in the arteries of the legs. These blockages limit blood flow to the leg muscles, causing pain during activity. In the past, patients with PAD required bypass surgery, which meant several days in the hospital, followed by an extended recovery time of weeks to months.
Fortunately, new lumivascular technology is being used at Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medical Center to treat patients with PAD. The Ocelot catheter system allows doctors to navigate inside long, blocked leg arteries for the first time. It’s used in combination with the Lightbox, a mobile imaging device that delivers optical coherence tomography imaging (OCT), which enables physicians to see from inside an artery during the procedure.
“It basically works by sending out a light source – in this case, a low power, red laser,” explains Dr. Vogel. “The light then reflects off the plaque and artery, giving us an image. With that image, we can steer the catheter through the plaque to the open artery on the other side of the blockage. It’s much safer than trying to blindly push a wire and catheter across a blockage, which can lead to perforation of the artery.”
In July 2013, doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center began using this technology. The med center is the only hospital in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota currently treating PAD patients with the Ocelot catheter system. The next closest providers are in Chicago, St. Louis and Columbia, Mo.
“Dr. Vogel is one of 20 people in the United States working with the latest lumivascular technology,” says Michael Moulton, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Nebraska Medicine. “There’s no one else in the entire region doing this type of treatment. Patients with PAD would do extremely well seeing Dr. Vogel.”
To date, 45 patients have undergone the procedure at the med center, including Billy Baney, who’s worked at Union Pacific Railroad for over 20 years.
“I build railroad tracks, so I do a lot of walking. Up and down the tracks. I need my legs to do my job.”
In late 2013, Baney came to Dr. Vogel, looking for a second opinion, after doctors at another area hospital told him he would need bypass surgery. “I left there shaking. Got into my car and said, ‘I can’t believe this,’” remembers Baney. “When I found Dr. Vogel, he told me that we could avoid major surgery.”
In February 2014, Dr. Vogel used the Ocelot catheter system to navigate through Baney’s blocked arteries. By April, Baney was building train tracks again.
“Dr. Vogel is really good at what he does,” says Baney. “I can’t thank him enough for helping me get back on my feet and back to work.”
This month, Dr. Vogel hopes to begin working on a clinical trial with Avinger, the company behind the Ocelot and Lightbox technology. The goal is to help more patients, like Baney, live healthier, normal lives.
“As the technology continues to improve, we will become more successful,” assures Dr. Vogel.
Symptoms of PAD:
- Painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles after walking or climbing stairs
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in the lower leg or foot
- Sores on the toes, feet or legs that will not heal
- Skin on your leg turns pale or bluish when leg is elevated
- Your foot turns a dusky red when you stand or sit
- The hair on your foot stops growing
- Your toenails stop growing
- You get frequent toenail infections
- If you smoke, your risk of getting PAD increases four times
- Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes will decrease your risk
- Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise will improve your overall health
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Vogel, call (800) 922-0000.