New Drug-Coated Angioplasty Balloon is Treatment of Choice for Peripheral Artery Disease

Candice Willis suffered from leg pain so severe she could barely walk.

Candice, a former pack-a-day smoker, had other troubling symptoms too, including, numbness and spasms in her foot and toes. It all added up to debilitating discomfort and an inability to do her job.

But a novel treatment available at Ingalls that uses an anti-proliferative cancer drug on a balloon reopened the artery and put an end to her troubling symptoms once and for all.

Earlier this summer, Candice’s employer told her she needed to see a doctor before she could return to work. Her primary care physician Cyrus Akrami, M.D., quickly recognized her symptoms and referred her to interventional cardiologist Abed Dehnee, M.D.

“I’ve been experiencing leg pain for the past two years,” Candice explains. “This year, it really started to get worse. Heating pads helped a little when I got home, but by the time I got to work, the cycle would start all over again.”

Dr. Dehnee ordered an arterial Doppler test of Candice’s legs. And what he saw confirmed his suspicions: Candice had severe peripheral artery disease (PAD) in the superficial femoral artery of her right leg.

PAD, which affects eight million Americans, narrows arteries in the legs, limiting blood flow to the muscles. Risk factors include diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, cigarette smoking and high blood pressure. Muscle pain, called claudication, typically comes on with exercise, and is relieved with rest. “PAD is most common in older patients,” Dr. Dehnee explains. “It was unusual for someone her age.”

Dr. Dehnee immediately scheduled Candice for a peripheral angiogram in mid-August, through which he discovered Candice’s leg artery was 100-percent blocked.

To reopen the closed blood vessel, Dr. Dehnee used a special technique called atherectomy to remove plaque from inside the artery. Then, for the very first time at Ingalls, he performed drug-coated balloon (DCB) angioplasty.

The medication coating the balloon, paclitaxel, is an antiproliferative drug used to block the growth of certain types of cancer. Researchers found it also helps prevent reblockage after an artery has been opened.

“DCB is similar to plain angioplasty but with the addition of the medication that helps keep an artery open,” he said. “At the end of the procedure, Mrs. Willis had excellent blood flow once again in her right leg and very good pulses in the foot,” Dr. Dehnee said. “I saw her a week later, and her pain had completely resolved.”

Candice, who had been a heavy smoker, gave up the habit and has committed to eating healthier to reduce other cardiovascular risk factors. And with her leg pain behind her, she’s back to work and plans to start walking for exercise — something she couldn’t do before.

“I feel so much better,” she said. “My leg pain is gone. I would definitely recommend Dr. Dehnee and Ingalls.”

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