SEATTLE, May 21, 2004 -- Swedish Heart Institute interventional cardiologists recently began using a device approved by the FDA in July 2003 designed to clean out large amounts of cholesterol plaque from clogged arteries in the leg, a condition called peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Instead of stents or angioplasty, both methods that stretch the artery and push plaque up against artery walls, the SilverHawk Plaque Excision System removes plaque altogether.
"We have had some patients with peripheral vascular disease whose daily activities are severely limited because of the pain in their legs, but after undergoing this procedure, we anticipate they will be able to walk without pain," said interventional cardiologist William Gray, M.D., director of Endovascular Care for SHI. "By extracting the plaque, we open up the arteries so blood can flow freely and provide oxygen to the extremities. When arteries become blocked, they get little oxygen, which causes patients pain in their leg or legs when they exert themselves."
Blockages in the legs have long presented a problem because plaque tends to build up along the entire length of the artery, making it hard to use stents or angioplasty because they generally target a small section of the artery. Even when stents or angioplasty are used, the arteries tend to re-narrow with time.
Developed by FoxHollow Technologies Inc. out of Redwood City, Calif., SilverHawk is the only device of its kind available. It uses a tiny rotating carbide blade to shave plaque longitudinally from artery walls. The device acts somewhat like a lawnmower, first cutting the plaque, and then like a trash compactor, the plaque is compressed into the device's nosecone and removed.
"We're cleaning out the plaque instead of pushing it up against the wall," explained Dr. Gray. "With this device, we are able to address the problem of plaque buildup by extraction rather than compression. It will also allow us to more closely examine plaque under the microscope and, hopefully, provide further insight into optimal treatments for this widespread problem."
Of nearly 10 million people with PVD in the United States, some 100,000 undergo amputations each year due to end stages of the disease. Others face open bypass surgery in the legs. In contrast, plaque excision is a minimally invasive procedure, routinely performed on an outpatient basis. Because the device is the only one of its kind and in great demand, SHI was selected to be the first program in the Northwest to begin using it due to Swedish's commitment to providing people access to the latest in cardiac-care treatments and cardiovascular research trials.
SHI is also taking part in a national registry that will analyze plaque collected by the SilverHawk device to determine if potential genetic markers may help better predict cardiovascular risk. For more information, visit www.foxhollowtech.com or call 206-386-6460.
Swedish Heart Institute (SHI) encompasses all of Swedish Medical Center's cardiac-care services, which includes the expertise of more than 60 physicians at hospitals and clinics across the Puget-Sound region. SHI offers a broad spectrum of cardiac services - from topnotch surgical and interventional procedures to the latest advances in heart-disease prevention, diagnosis and cardiac rehabilitation. SHI includes 18 member clinics and four medical-center affiliates, including: Swedish Medical Centers at First Hill, Ballard and Providence; Stevens Hospital in Edmonds; Highline Community Hospital in Burien; Valley Medical Center in Renton; Ballard Cardiology; Summit Cardiology; Swedish Cardiovascular Research; Highline Cardiologists; Minor & James Cardiologists; Pacific Cardiology in Aberdeen; Physicians Anesthesia Service Inc., P.S.; The Polyclinic Cardiologists; Seattle Heart Clinic; Stevens Cardiology; Summit Cardiology - Ballard; Summit Cardiology - Northwest; Summit Cardiology - Stevens; Swedish Cardiac Surgery; Swedish Cardiology, P.S.; Swedish Cardiovascular Consultants; Swedish Pediatric Specialty Care (Cardiology); and Valley Internal Medicine Cardiologists. For more information, visit www.swedish.org.