Dr Joe Brookes (far left) with his team and the 'turbo booster'
Short bursts of laser energy blast the obstructing tissue into microscopic particles that are absorbed into the bloodstream – restoring natural blood flow and bringing rapid relief from pain, without the need for complex by-pass surgery.
The ultra violet light is transmitted through flexible glass fibres which are guided into place by a catheter which is advanced through the blockage.
The treatment is highly effective for patients who have developed total blockage of arteries following previous angioplasty or stent placement (a minimally invasive technique to widen narrowed arteries.)
An increase in lining tissue of the damaged artery can occur following the procedure in up to 30% of cases and the Excimer® laser technique helps to improve the long-term results and avoid bypass surgery.
Dr Joe Brookes, vascular radiologist and divisional clinical director for imaging and vascular services, said: “If patients develop a scarring reaction following angioplasty or stent placement, unwanted tissue can begin to build up on the artery wall which constricts them again. Obviously this puts the patient at further risk.
“This latest procedure is a very simple and effective way of vaporizing the tissue in a controlled way to get the blood flowing freely again. University College Hospital (UCH) is the only hospital in the country to offer this procedure and several of our patients have already benefited. “
Once the blockage is cleared, the catheter is withdrawn and dye is injected into the blood vessel to allow doctors to assess the results. The first two patients were treated in the UCH Imaging Department on July 12th 2010. The results were excellent and patients were discharged the following day.
Previously, the options available to treat blocked stents in the pelvis and legs were limited to further attempts at angioplasty (with or without cutting balloons) and/or further stenting with disappointing long-term results. Ultimately this has led to bypass surgery.
This is the first time the Excimer Laser technology and Turbo Elite ® has been used in the UK for a patient with blocked leg arteries. Hardening or narrowing of the arteries can lead to pain and numbness of the legs, as blood flow is decreased. It is exacerbated by smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
This programme is the latest success of the Trust’s vascular department whose multi disciplinary endovascular team (MET) seek to introduce and develop all forms of minimally invasive endovascular techniques for UCH patients.