Doctors have a new way to treat painful peripheral artery disease

Lynne Adkins
July 02, 2018 - 8:31 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Local doctors are discovering a new way to open blockages that cause pain in legs.

Calcium build-up in a leg artery causes pain when walking — known as peripheral artery disease — and severe cases can lead to infection or worse. 

David Drucker, an interventional cardiologist at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, said treatment often includes threading a balloon catheter into the leg to re-open the calcified artery.

"One of the problems in peripheral artery disease is the arteries can get very hard," he said, "and when the doctor tries to open it up with a balloon, the artery is stiff and doesn't want to open as much as it could."

He's now adding intravascular lithotripsy, using pressure waves to make cracks in the calcium blockage. The cracks allow the balloon to more easily open the artery and restore circulation.

"We're just trying to gently agitate, if you will, the calcium with the energy through the lithotripsy balloon, and that will fissure the calcium. So all the calcium stays in place, but now it's weaker," he added.