On January 15, 2012, 6 cardiovascular interventional radiologists from across the United States joined Dr. William Julien, medical director of South Florida Vascular Associates for a specialized national training course in learning new techniques for treating patients suffering from critical limb ischemia. Critical Limb Ischemia or CLI, is the end stage of lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) in which severe obstruction of the arteries decreases blood flow to the lower extremities resulting in severe and debilitating pain, skin ulcers, and a significant risk for loss of limb. CLI is often present in people with severe peripheral arterial disease (PAD) where plaque builds-up in the arteries and blocks the passage of normal blood flow through the arteries into the lower extremities to prevent deterioration of a limb.
In his course, Dr. Julien demonstrated a procedure called atherectomy, a non-surgical, minimally invasive option for treating hardening of the arteries or calcified blockages in patients with PAD. Atherectomy procedure uses a tiny, rotating diamond-coated tip to gently sand away tough plaque build- up and creates a large opening to restore blood flow to the affected area. A balloon angioplasty is also used to widen the artery and provide ample return of blood flow to the affected lower extremity to assist with salvaging the limb.
Atherectomy in combination with balloon angioplasty has proven to be a very successful treatment option and offers hope for those patients who suffer from CLI as an alternative to surgery or amputation.