Medicated catheter treats peripheral artery disease

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- While the body can do a great job of repairing itself, sometimes that actually gets in the way for doctors. That can be especially true when surgeons open up blocked arteries.

That led one Valley doctor to a balloon that tells the body when it's time to stop.

Dr. Richard Heuser, director of cardiology at St. Luke’s Medical Center, is in the business of clearing  blocked arteries.

"It's possible to open up the blockage but unfortunately, 30 or 40 percent of the time they narrow again," Heuser said.

He said that's because the body tries to repair the irritation caused to the inside lining of the vessels when doctors clear the blockages.

"Because the normal response the body has to trauma is to grow cells," he said.

And while he can use stents for arteries near the heart, when it comes to those long arteries running to the legs, there is another problem.

"And it's a real problem when one side of the vessel from on top is big and then as you go down, the vessel gets smaller so you can't put a stent in because it will be just one size," Heuser said.

What he really needed was a way to stop cells from regrowing, so a stent would not be needed.

It turned out the answer was a balloon.

"This is a case where we open up the vessel really well and then we treat it with the medicated balloon and that medication is distributed in the wall of the artery, increasing the blood flow but inhibiting growth of tissue," he said.

The device is manufactured in the Valley and Heuser pioneered its use in Arizona.

It allows him to deliver medicine only where it is needed.

"So it's not in the body and it really tries to inhibit growth over the few weeks to months after the procedure," he said.

Heuser said they can reduce re-narrowing by 50 percent and he believes it will soon be used on heart vessels as well, where even arteries with stents can end up narrowing.

"Because many patients have had stents already placed and you can put a stent inside of a stent, but It gets to a point where, diminishing returns, there's no room left," he said.

Heuser said ideally they would cut out the section of blocked artery, but there are two problems. The heart is constantly pumping blood through the arteries and they run into that same problem of scarring, which would impede the flow of blood once the artery is sewn back together.

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