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New Stent Uniquely Treats PAD for the First Time

Frederick Burge was experiencing buttock pain and leg weakness, as well as heaviness in his thigh. Allegheny Health Network (AHN) interventional cardiologist Matthew Becker, MD, confirmed that peripheral artery disease (PAD) was to blame. PAD is a common condition marked by narrowed arteries in the arms and legs.


New Stent Uniquely Treats PAD for the First Time

PAD limits blood flow and lifestyle

PAD affects arteries called the peripheral arteries, which supply blood with oxygen to the arms, hands, legs, and feet (extremities). The peripheral veins then deliver the used, oxygen-depleted blood from the extremities back to the heart.

With PAD, a fatty substance called plaque builds up on the artery walls, causing them to narrow. This narrowing reduces blood flow to the extremities, which can cause pain in the lower legs with walking and, in severe cases, a total blockage, leading to infection and amputation.

Frederick’s PAD affected his iliac artery. The iliac artery delivers the primary supply of blood to the leg, which helped explained Frederick’s symptoms. To get him some relief, Dr. Becker knew that a stent would be Frederick’s best option. Stents are small, metal or plastic, tube-shaped devices that help clear clogged passageways, typically blood vessels.

Specialized stent opens arteries and the door to new possibilities

But there was one problem. Traditionally, a lot of stents commonly used in other parts of the body don’t work as well in the iliac artery. One reason is that traditional stents are made entirely of one laser-cut piece of stainless steel, which cannot bend or expand to the iliac artery’s shape and size. This shortcoming also makes these stents more susceptible to traveling from their intended position or breaking through an artery wall.

For cases like Frederick’s, interventional cardiologists needed a stent that would be:

  • Strong enough to open the walls of the narrowed artery
  • Flexible enough to accommodate the artery’s curvature without distorting it
  • Expandable to contour and fit a wide variety of artery sizes

Dr. Becker had the perfect solution, and it was one that he knew very well: the VBX Stent Graft. He had helped research, develop, and test it with the manufacturer, W.L. Gore & Associates (Gore). This stent graft is made of individual stainless steel rings for strength and expandability as well as GORE-TEX® (a water-proof fabric) for flexibility. GORE-TEX not only holds the rings in place but also [reduces/eliminates] the chance of the stent breaking through the artery wall.

“There’s nothing else like it,” said Dr. Becker, who has worked with other manufacturers to develop and research new medical devices. “Because of how this stent is made, we’ve been able to decrease the procedure time, which reduces risk and gets patients back to their lives faster.”

Frederick underwent a same-day, minimally invasive procedure to place two VBX Stent Grafts. Same-day stent placement procedures involve conscious sedation and a mere pinhole incision in the groin. The procedure takes less than 30 minutes, followed by three or four hours of rest — compared to days in the hospital and weeks of recovering with traditional, surgical stent procedures.

“This exact same patient may have gone to another hospital and, therefore, could’ve undergone massive surgery,” Dr. Becker said. “At AHN, we’re almost always able to do a minimally invasive stent procedure. And we get much better results, and our patients are feeling better right away.”

His procedure behind him, Frederick was able to go home from Saint Vincent Hospital the very same afternoon and made a full and fast recovery. He was back to his normal activities the very next day.

PAD? Don’t wait

PAD isn’t a condition that improves with time. Waiting to seek medical attention puts patients at risk of limb loss or infection.

Waiting also makes the disease harder to treat. The sooner diagnosis takes place and treatment begins, the more options patients and physicians have to stop the process and get back to living life.

If you think you may have PAD, request an appointment with one of our experts or get more information about Allegheny Health Network Cardiovascular Institute.