For the first time in Southern California, a combination of laser probe and computer imaging has been used to open a blocked artery in a leg, according to UC Irvine Medical Center officials.
The laser angioplasty was the first of 20 such procedures UCI plans to perform, under federal Food and Drug Administration permission. UCI is among about half a dozen institutions with FDA authority to explore the use of a laser to combat coronary artery disease, said Michael Berns, director of UCI's Beckman Laser Institute and professor of surgery and cell biology.
The laser angioplasty was performed Wednesday at UCI Medical Center here on a vessel in the left thigh of Al Warren, 56, of Carson, who said he has suffered pain from the blockage for more than 10 years.
A metal-capped fiber optic--known as a laser probe--was pushed into the blocked artery from the groin area, down into the thigh. The argon laser beam, transmitted through the fiber optic, heated the metal cap to vaporize a hole in the blockage, Berns said. A balloon then was inserted and inflated to enlarge the hole and smooth away the plaque buildup that caused the blockage. The laser was on about 30 seconds during the two-hour procedure.
The physicians were able to see the progress of the laser probe with the help of the cardiology department's sophisticated computer imaging system, which provided pictures of the procedure, Berns said.
"The computer imaging gives us a unique approach to this problem," he said.
The procedure is part of a joint program of the Beckman Laser Institute and the medical center's cardiology division and the departments of radiology and surgery, officials said.
The patient said Thursday that while he is still sore from the insertion of the laser and catheter, the once-constant pain in his leg is gone and he feels "pretty good." Other doctors previously tried to remove the blockage in his leg by using a catheter and balloon, "but it didn't work. "