UV laser blasts through scar tissue to unclog arteries

Patients at University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are the first in the country to benefit from the latest Excimer laser technology which unclogs arteries in a matter of minutes.

Developed by Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Spectranetics Corporation, the Excimer laser blasts obstructing tissue into microscopic particles that are then absorbed into the bloodstream – restoring natural blood flow and bringing relief from pain, without the need for complex bypass surgery.

The ultra-violet light is transmitted through flexible glass fibres that 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 per cent 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 vapourising 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Once the blockage is cleared, the catheter is withdrawn and dye is injected into the blood vessel to allow doctors to assess the results.

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 Spectranetics’ Excimer laser technology and Turbo Elite catheters have 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.