New tool to open clogged leg arteries

March 15, 2013 5:22:10 AM PDT
A local hospital is using a new tool to help open clogged leg arteries and keep them open.

Until two weeks ago, every step was painful for Bob Recupido.

"I couldn't walk a block without the pain being so excruciating, I'd have to stop," Bob said. The trouble was in an artery in Bob's thigh.

It was so clogged by plaque, his lower leg was starving for oxygen.

In addition to pain, those clogged blood vessels pose health problems for the legs and feet.

"You can develop gangrene; you can develop an ulcer that just fails to heal," Dr. Joseph Lombardi of Cooper University Hospital said.

Angioplasty using a balloon can open the artery. However, many close up again, even when a mesh tube called a stent is implanted.

So for Bob, Dr. Lombardi implanted a newly FDA approved stent coated with a drug.

"The drug prevents that from closing up prematurely," Dr. Lombardi said.

Like stents for the heart, the ones for the leg are threaded into place with a tiny catheter.

Bob says the leg pain went away immediately. Now, he's itching to get walking, to lose weight and improve his diabetes.

"I'm just waiting for the weather to break," Bob said.

This kind of drug-coated stent was approved just before Thanksgiving, so it's just arriving in hospitals.

In this area, Cooper University Hospital is the first to have it.