Using laser to cut down leg pain

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
January 24, 2008 3:28:43 PM PST
Millions of Americans have a serious cardiovascular disease, and most don't even know it. One symptom is a nagging pain in your legs.With more on how doctors are treating it, Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Twelve million Americans have it, but 75 percent don't know about it. That nagging pain in your legs could be a sign of a peripheral artery disease. But doctors can now clear away the problem before damage is done.

For now, memories of exotic vacations will have to do. The Paxton's were grounded when Gertrude's legs refused to budge.

"I felt that way, that I had weights on my legs," Gertrude said. "It was hard. And then there was pain."

One look at her angiogram showed doctors why. Three main arteries in her legs were blocked with plaque, similar to a slow, continuous heart attack in the leg. Left untreated, peripheral artery disease causes sores and eventually amputaion of a foot or leg.

But now, with the turbo-booster laser, doctors are shaving off large chunks of plaque in the arteries above the knees. The turbo-booster vaporizes blockages into tiny particles absorbed into the blood stream.

"Now that we have this turbo booster, it allows us to cut in multiple planes a channel through that artery and essentially remove a lot more plaque," Dr. Mason Weiss said.

In the short term, blood flow is restored, wounds heal and pain disappears. As for the long term, doctors don't know yet. They hope removing plaque, rather than pushing it aside with a stent, will offer longer-lasting results.

Gertrude is back on her feet, slowly training for another trip abroad. Her next stop, legs willing, is Greece.

The turbo booster is available nationwide to treat peripheral artery disease. Early warning signs of PAD include pain in the hips, thighs or calf muscles and numbness or tingling in the legs, feet or toes.