News Release

October 29, 2004

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

New Procedure to Treat Severe Leg Pain

Surgeon with the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center Offers New Treatment for Peripheral Vascular Disease

FARMINGTON, CONN. – An aggressive new procedure to help people who suffer from severe leg pain is available at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Serious, recurring leg pain occurs when arteries and veins in the legs become clogged with plaque, a condition known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

Michael S. Dahn, M.D., an endovascular surgeon at the Health Center, is now using a new device to clean out dangerous plaque from blocked arteries in the leg. The Silverhawk Plaque Excision System works by using a tiny rotating blade – the size of a grain of rice – that shaves away plaque from the artery walls then collects it in the nosecone of the device. The plaque is then compressed, similar to the way a trash compactor works, so it can be removed safely from the artery. The device was approved by the F.D.A. earlier this year.

Completely removing plaque from the artery helps to restore normal blood flow to the legs and feet – and ultimately allows patients return to a more active lifestyle.

“This is an exciting addition to our existing technologies. It works especially well in removing plaque from smaller vessels in the leg and in areas where the disease is more spread out,” Dr. Dahn said, adding that the device gives surgeons excellent control over how much plaque to remove.

For patients with PVD, the Health Center also offers angioplasty procedures to open blocked arteries with a catheter, balloon and stenting to keep the artery open, as well as more complex surgical procedures including peripheral arterial bypass surgery. Silverhawk is ideal for removing long clogs that have built up along the entire length of the arteries. Stents, on the other hand, are intended for smaller sections of arteries.

“The Silverhawk catheter removes long lesions of plaque without traumatizing blood vessels or stretching the vessel walls. This dramatically reduces the risk of scarring or re-closures in the future,” Dr. Dahn said.

Ideal candidates for the Silverhawk procedure are patients with non-healing ulcers, pain in the legs when resting, simple pain when walking, gangrene and more. The procedure is minimally invasive and is performed through a tiny puncture site. The procedure typically lasts less than two hours.

Another exciting feature about Silverhawk, Dr. Dahn said, is the fact that the Health Center is participating in a national registry that will analyze plaque collected by the Silverhawk device to determine if potential genetic markers may be help better predict cardiovascular risk.

Are you at Risk?
PVD is a common but under-diagnosed condition that vastly increases a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke and amputation. Some 100,000 Americans lose limbs every year because of PVD.

Risk factors for PVD include high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. In addition, smokers and people over the age of 50 who are overweight and sedentary are also at high risk. Dr. Dahn strongly advises men and women to talk to their doctor about the risk of PVD. Simple tests can determine its presence.

If PVD is diagnosed, treatments range from medications and lifestyle changes – quitting smoking in particular – to a range of surgical options.

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