In what could drastically reduce operation time and hospital stays, British scientists have developed a new high-powered laser which they say unblocks clogged arteries in just minutes.
The new procedure involved fitting a special catheter or tube to a new laser called the Excimer that blasts tissues into particles so small they can only be seen under a microscope.
Trials at University College Hospital in London have proved the procedure a major success as it not only reduced operating times but also dramatically sped up patients’ recovery time.
The first two patients were treated at the hospital in July and discharged the next day, instead of spending weeks in hospital, the Daily Mail reported.
Around 85,000 people a year have treatment to widen their arteries which have been narrowed by cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes.
But the common procedure to unblock artery can trigger an exaggerated healing response where unwanted tissue builds up on the artery wall, leading to excess scarring and renarrowing of the artery. The small tube, or stent, used to widen the artery can also become blocked.
At least one in three patients who undergo treatment end up with a new blockage and this puts them further at risk of future health problems.
Until now, the only solutions available to doctors were further operations and ultimately complex bypass surgery, which is high risk.
But Dr. Joe Brookes and his team at University College Hospital found the potential of a laser technology as a revolutionary device to unclog arteries.
The radiologist had already pioneered the use of lasers in varicose vein surgery and for treating secondary liver cancer.
He says, “It’s an incredibly difficult treatment to unblock an artery, especially if a patient has a stent.
Before, patients had to spend up to ten days in hospital. We are talking about those who are already frail because they may have other serious health problems such as heart disease. And they would be vulnerable to infection.”
With the Excimer laser there is no need for further surgery. Instead, the device vaporises tissue in minbloodutes with the help of ultra violet light which delivers short bursts of energy, he said.
The light is transmitted through 30 glass filaments which are guided through the blockage in the artery with a special catheter called the Turbo Elite.
Once the tissue has been blasted away, normal flow is restored. Another advantage of the laser over traditional treatments is that any remaining particles are absorbed into the bloodstream and safely passed out of the body.
Dr. Brookes said, “This has been a problem in the past. Particles cause blockages elsewhere downstream-stream. With this laser, the matter is so small it easily gets broken down in the body then passed out.”
The use of lasers is not new. But this turbo-charged version is known as a ‘cool’ laser which is high energy but safer than traditional ‘hot’ lasers, he said.
“The advantage with this is the laser treats only what you need it to target. The laser goes over a safety wire and it’s much targeted, similar to using a drill.” he added.