Advances in Vascular Treatment May Reduce Risk of Amputation

12/17/2014

(Bangor, Maine) - Losing a limb is a life-changing experience that affects millions of Americans. Now, thanks to a new, minimally invasive approach offered for the first time in Maine at EMMC, there is new hope for patients who may be facing a leg amputation resulting from a severe form of peripheral artery disease, a painful condition caused by blockages in the legs.

“Treating peripheral artery disease by making an incision in the thigh, moving small wires and a balloon to the site of the problem, and clearing out the blockage is common,” says Larry Flanagan, MD, a vascular and endovascular surgeon at EMMC Vascular Care of Maine. “What’s different about this new approach is that I access the artery through the ankle, which allows me to remove blockages that we couldn’t treat before. For many patients, our ability to get into the artery through the ankle is very important, as it may be the only thing we can do to prevent an amputation.”

Most patients who have the procedure can go home the same day. Patients experience minor discomfort at the site of the incision and in the arteries as the procedure is being performed. They are back on their feet quickly and can fully recover within a few days.

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and age (over 60). Symptoms include leg pain and heaviness that becomes worse with walking and is relieved by sitting down. Early treatment options include smoking cessation, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar through medication or other means, and increasing physical activity. Those with a severe form of peripheral artery disease and patients who have diabetes are at higher risk for amputation.

Thanks to this new breakthrough in treatment, some of these patients who previously would have needed to have a leg amputated will be able to keep their limbs. It’s one of many advances in vascular care that Dr. Flanagan as seen over the years.

“There have been so many improvements in how we can treat circulation and other related problems over the past couple of decades,” he adds. “For example, we can now repair aneurysms, which are bulging, weak segments in the artery, through a small needle incision. This has led to a shorter recovery time, lower risk of complications and infection, and less pain. The new approach we’re using to treat peripheral artery disease through the ankle is just one more advancement in a long string of them.”

For more information about peripheral artery disease and other circulatory problems, contact EMMC Vascular Care of Maine at 973-6670 or vascularcare.emmc.org.