Medically Reviewed by Christopher G. Cunningham, MD
“A whole new approach to clearing plaque from thigh and knee arteries — and keeping them clear,” is the way McLeod Vascular Surgeon Christopher Cunningham describes the Drug Coated Balloon angioplasty treatment for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Cunningham was one of the first vascular specialists in the country to use the new treatment after it was approved by the FDA in early October 2014. PAD is a blood flow blockage – often in the legs – caused by a build up of fatty substances (plaque) in the artery. The blockage restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to muscles causing pain and cramps.
Traditional treatments include walking to strengthen leg muscles, medication to thin the blood, angioplasty (which inflates a balloon in the artery to open the vessel), placing a drug-coated stent (or tube) in the artery to keep it open and in severe cases bypass surgery to go around the blocked artery.
“This new Drug Coated Balloon (DCB) treatment is similar to angioplasty,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Except the outside of the balloon is coated with a special drug that discourages the buildup of plaque. When the balloon is expanded, the drug transfers from the balloon to the wall of the artery.”
The balloon is removed. The chemical remains, working to keep the artery from closing again (restenosis). There is no mesh stent that has to remain in the artery.
The drug-coated balloon can be used as a standalone treatment or can be incorporated in an approach that incorporates several of the other treatments mentioned above.
Before receiving FDA approval, the new DCB device underwent a number of tests. At the end of six months in one trial, 71.8% of the patients receiving the new device required NO FURTHER TREATMENT. Less than half of those receiving conventional therapy DID NOT require additional treatment. Men did seem to benefit more than women from the Drug Coated Balloon treatment.
At the end of 12 months in another study, 65.2% of patients receiving the DCB treatment DID NOT require further treatment. Of the patients receiving conventional treatment, only 52.6% could escape without further treatment.
In this article, we are not intending to recommend any specific treatment, but simply make you aware of an additional option to consider.
If you think have Peripheral Arterial Disease, see your personal physician. They are likely to refer you to a Vascular Surgeon for more testing. He or she can discuss the full range of treatment options available.
You may also find these articles helpful:
Get Moving: Peripheral Arterial Disease Could Cost You a Leg
Leg Pain When You Walk? Could be Claudication
Find a Vascular Surgeon near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, US Food & Drug Administration, CR Bard, Temple University School of Medicine