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New Laser Technology Opens Blocked Arteries


With more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels crisscrossing the human body, it's not surprising that the circulatory system is prone to a few problems.

One of the most serious problems is peripheral artery disease, a condition characterized by the buildup of cholesterol plaques in the arteries. Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, as it's commonly known, can affect any artery outside the heart and brain, but it most frequently affects the arteries of the legs.

With time, the continued accumulation of cholesterol causes the arteries to become progressively narrower, reducing the flow of blood to the legs and feet. In some cases, PAD can ultimately necessitate amputation of the affected limb.

According to the American Heart Association, eight to 12 million American adults currently suffer from PAD. Unfortunately, nearly three-quarters of these individuals aren't even aware they have the condition.

Many remain undiagnosed simply because they don't have any symptoms of the disease, including pain, numbness or tingling in the lower legs and feet, and sores that don't heal properly. Some undiagnosed PAD-sufferers experience a number of these troubling symptoms, but mistakenly attribute them to other causes.

"In the early stages, patients with peripheral artery disease may not feel it at all," explained Craig Walker, M.D., founder and chief medical officer of the Cardiovascular Institute of the South. "But as blood supply is further reduced, they may begin to experience pain in the leg muscles with walking."

As the condition progresses, leg pain often becomes severe, even during periods of rest. Without proper blood flow, the skin, muscles, and other tissues of the lower extremity are starved of oxygen and nutrients.

As a result, the tissues of the legs and feet can begin to die. Tissue death may manifest as a non-healing ulcer that ultimately progresses to gangrene.

"Peripheral artery disease is the leading cause of amputation in the U.S. at this time," said Walker. "It causes a tremendous amount of pain and suffering."

Even under the best circumstances, amputation is a dangerous surgery that carries a high risk of death. In many cases, limb loss can be avoided with the appropriate treatment.

Treatment often involves a procedure called angioplasty, in which a tiny balloon is inserted into the affected artery and inflated at the site of the blockage, reducing the size of the cholesterol plaque.

Angioplasty is often followed by the placement of a small metal coil, called a stent, which widens the artery and holds it open.

When balloon angioplasty and stenting aren't the best options, patients may undergo bypass surgery. Using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the patient's body, or one made of a synthetic material, surgeons reroute the flow of blood around the blocked or narrowed artery.

The development of new technology has given surgeons another option for the treatment of PAD. An FDA-approved device, known as the Spectranetics excimer laser, produces pulsed bursts of ultraviolet light energy that vaporizes cholesterol buildup in clogged arteries.

Known as a cool laser, the device doesn't produce the high temperatures commonly associated with other laser treatments. As a result, patients undergoing excimer laser therapy typically do not experience pain.

Successful treatment brings about an immediate improvement in blood flow to the compromised limb. Even better, treatment with the excimer laser may reduce the need for amputation in patients with severe PAD.

"Most patients who need amputations aren't good surgical candidates: They're just too sick to have the surgery," Walker noted. "With this new technique, we can save limbs in 90 percent of these patients for longer than a year."

Although treatment options for peripheral artery disease are improving, prevention is still the best medicine. Two of the most easily modifiable risk factors are cigarette smoking and lack of regular physical activity.

Among people with PAD, smokers tend to develop symptoms about 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Walking just three times a week, even for short distances, not only slows the progression of PAD; it also helps reduce the likelihood of developing the disease in the first place.

Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels are other important risk factors for peripheral artery disease. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be controlled with the appropriate medications and lifestyle changes.

The good news is that when you reduce your risk for peripheral artery disease, you're simultaneously reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke. The steps that you take to save your limbs could end up saving your life.

Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., is a family physician in Kingsport, Tenn., and author of "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her Web site is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at







43 Comments | Post Comment
Can you tell me any doctors in the US who are performing spectranetics excimer laser therapy for PAD. I live in Corpus Christi Texas and would like to know of someone close to my region, but am not opposed to traveling wherever I need to go to get the best treatment. I am faced with loosing a foot if I can't find something to open up my vessels to increase blood flow to my extremities
Comment: #1
Posted by: Karen Howry
Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:30 AM
Please tell me where I can take my 78-yr-old mother for this laser treatment. Her area code is 48609 (Saginaw, MI).

Thank you!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Martha
Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:46 PM
the Spectranetics excimer laser,i live in potsdam ny. and need help thank you
Comment: #3
Posted by: robert sullivan
Sat Apr 3, 2010 2:18 PM
Hello, I live in Toronto, Canada, what can I do to help my 44 year old sister with 5 children. She has 20% flow to the left leg and is going though alot of pain. You can see her flesh at the bottom and thetop of her leg. It doesn't matter whatever it costs, please let us know where and what to do. We are willing to travel. our number is 905-417-9323 ask for Lucy

Comment: #4
Posted by: lucy
Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:04 AM
Does VA hospitals have laser heart treatment? If so, what locations.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Dianne
Wed May 5, 2010 3:23 PM
I think this laser surgery is the type of procedure that I will be having within the next few weeks

Indianapolis, IN
Comment: #6
Posted by: Rhonda
Mon May 10, 2010 8:41 AM
Re: lucy
Comment: #7
Posted by: janie Abraham
Mon May 17, 2010 7:23 AM
Can you tell me if there are any hospitals that do laser surgery for PAD in Ontario or Manitoba Canada. Thank you
Janie Abraham
Comment: #8
Posted by: janie Abraham
Mon May 17, 2010 7:25 AM
Can you tell me where I can receive this excimer lase for pad in my area. zip 34470 Ocala florida. thank you
Comment: #9
Posted by: Laurel
Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:11 AM
Is this treatment available anywhere near Valdosta, Georgia? 31601
Comment: #10
Posted by: Leland Jerome Oglesby
Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:45 AM
Is this treatment available anywhere near Valdosta, Georgia (31601) for the V.A.?
Comment: #11
Posted by: Leland Jerome Oglesby
Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:46 AM
I have blockage 100% BLOCKAGE FROM MY KNEES DOWN CAN YOU HELP ME Duane L Hansen age 71 5680 Wood Duck Cr Shorewood Mn 55331 phone 952 456 1175
Comment: #12
Posted by: Duane L Hansen
Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:57 AM
ai have blockage in both of my legs from the knee down.I am told they cant do anything Could you please let me know if laser is possible,thank you LeRoy Hansen 952 456 1175
Comment: #13
Posted by: Duane L Hansen
Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:09 PM
Re: Karen Howry I have blackage in both legs. Dr. Winter in Florida is going to put stents in the right leg to help. The left leg has a blockage from where the leg joins the body to the knee. Can I have Spectranetic excimer laser therapy for this condition. He said a synthetic device in sure a large blockage would not work?here I have had heart -bypass(4) so I do not have anygood arteries to use. If my doctor does not do Spectranetic excimer laser therapy, where may it be available to me?
Comment: #14
Posted by: Thomas J. Elliott
Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:19 AM
I thought that I had added this to the discussion. to find a doctor in your area...go so teh Spectranetics web site and to the "find Physician" drop down menu. I used an interventional cardiologist and am having the procedure in two days...>Wednesday, August 11, 2010. I found my doctor on the web site.
Comment: #15
Posted by: MaryLou Mateja
Mon Aug 9, 2010 4:35 PM
Can you tell me if the symptoms of PAD are associated with leg cramps? Leg cramps, like "charley horses", wake me in the wee hours of the morning and I wonder if that might be associated with PAD. If it is, where in the Dallas/Fort Worth area do you have clinic for the cool laser treatments?
Comment: #16
Posted by: Becky Gilbert
Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:18 AM
This technique works with the coronary artery disease?, I had a heart attack when I was 41, and 5 bypass surgery, Now I'm 50 . Is there any hope on this treatment for hearts disease , I watch my diet for 8 years and my cholesterol and triglicers they have ben in 130 and 99, even dough my dr. told me that they are going to get blocked no matter what I do.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Luis C. Fernandez
Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:26 PM
Is Excimer laser surgury available in the St. Louis, Mo area?
Is is usually covered by Medicare and Blue Cross supplement?
Comment: #18
Posted by: K Fanger
Fri Dec 3, 2010 6:31 PM
I am very anxious to know if tthis cool laser treament is available in Canada, and if so where? Thank you.
Comment: #19
Posted by: A. Woodman
Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:19 AM
Could you please tell me where in the UK, I could find this treatment? Thank you.
Comment: #20
Posted by: o reid
Fri May 13, 2011 9:35 AM
Re: Laurel
I am having the procedure next week at Gulf Coast Hospital
Comment: #21
Posted by: Lori
Thu Aug 4, 2011 11:04 AM
Hello from from New Zealand We learned of the new turbo laser treatment while on holiday in England.
would you know of this being available here in New Zealand. We will go back but would love it to be able to be done at home. My husband is the P.A.D. sufferer. Hope you can help us.
Comment: #22
Posted by: joy Rose
Sun Oct 2, 2011 1:36 AM
My stepmom has been diagnosed with PAD in both legs. One leg has been partially cleared and the other can't be cleared. Is this treatment available anywhere near Conway, AR 72032? Hoping to hear back from you soon. Thanks.
Comment: #23
Posted by: Deb
Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:59 AM
I have multiple sclerosis. Ihave had the treatment called the "liberation procedure, which included placement of stents in my jugular veins. One of my jugular veins, in my left jugular vein, inside the stent I have developed a clot. Do you think this "cold laser technology" would be able to desolve the clot, without causing complications since this technology lessens the use of heat, which could cause complications since the clot/stent is near the base of my brain? If so would you please recommend a MD near N.J. thank you
Comment: #24
Posted by: Patrick McBride
Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:18 PM
Re: janie Abraham
I am also interested in knowing where this can be done in Ontario or even cross-border (NY)
Comment: #25
Posted by: suzanne
Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:51 AM
Is this technology available in Ontario Canada for Cardiac patients?
Comment: #26
Posted by: K
Fri Mar 2, 2012 12:24 PM
Dear Sir:

Can you tell me whether excimer laser treatment is available either in Nova Scotia or Ontario? Thank you.

Comment: #27
Posted by: Carol Perry
Tue Jan 1, 2013 4:57 AM
hi i live in england i have pad i am really suffering i refused the operation as i was scare of losing a leg would the lazer help do you no who will do the precesure in england and what will it cost kindregards
Comment: #28
Posted by: pamela dawson
Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:37 PM
I am diabetic with PAD. I am 77 years old. Iwould like to know of the nearest Dr. that does this procedure. Will insurance help pay for this?
Comment: #29
Posted by: Barbara Gisondi
Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:52 PM
Gud day!is this procedure available in the philippines because my father is suggested by his doctor to undergo excimer laser.? Is this expensive? Who can help us pls...
Comment: #30
Posted by: Maria mae porras
Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:01 PM
my email is
Comment: #31
Posted by: jahangir
Tue May 28, 2013 8:47 AM
please send it me it extremely emergency from
Comment: #32
Posted by: jahangir
Tue May 28, 2013 8:49 AM
I have one heart rtery 100% blocked and 3 stents. Cardiologist say new clogging cant be fixed by stents or su rgery. Is cool laser an option? Outside of diet and exercise are there any?t
Comment: #33
Posted by: Charles Baker
Sat Jun 1, 2013 1:04 PM
am looking for surgery of caratid artery that to this point to close to my brain for a surgen to do anything with
Comment: #34
Posted by: raymond stapleton
Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:47 AM
Plrease advise if cool laser treatment for PAD available Quebec or Ontario New York thanks
Comment: #35
Posted by: pat fletcher
Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:21 AM
Please give me the doctor that preformed this surgery.
Comment: #36
Posted by: Roxie Harris
Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:46 PM
Hello there I have trouble in both legs at the moment ,I have had attempted angioplasty a couple of yrs ago but they couldn't do it because they said it was blocked ,I had already changed my diet & it eased up a bit ,I still get cramp in my calves after a while ,what I would like to know is ,do you know any where in England that will do this treatment " my younger brother as just had a stroke & it's worried me ,so if you could let me know it would be much appreciated thank you .
Comment: #37
Posted by: Steven Dalby
Wed Oct 9, 2013 4:44 AM
My legs titing up when I walk in caff aera I can,t walk to before I have stop and reast awhile
Comment: #38
Posted by: George r.maxim
Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:15 AM
Re: Deb
Comment: #39
Posted by: Marian Rathbun
Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:04 AM
Re: joy Rose
I am also in NZ and would like to know if I can get treatment here
Comment: #40
Posted by: w ridgway
Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:01 PM
Both legs clog arteries pain in legs and blood not going to chest. Can't walk very far. Is laser good for me. Try anything. It's 50% or more cloged.
Comment: #41
Posted by: Jimmy pohrman
Sun Mar 29, 2015 7:46 PM
Dear Sir:
Can you tell me whether excimer laser treatment is available either in INDONESIA, MALAYSIA OR SINGAPORE?, and if it so, please let me know the hospital name, because I live in Indonesia. Thank You for your information. Please write me to
Comment: #42
Posted by: muhammad sahnan
Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:45 PM
Where in Ontario can this surgery be done. My boyfriend ankle is all black and he diabetic and had a heart attack last year.
Comment: #43
Posted by: Jeannine Beauchamp
Mon Jan 4, 2016 8:24 AM
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