“Frozen Angioplasty” Helps Keep Arteries Open
For years, doctors have used small inflatable balloons to open up blocked arteries, a technique known as angioplasty. One downside is that the procedure often causes scar tissue, resulting in renewed blockage. In March, doctors at Froedtert & Medical College Cardiovascular Center began using a new angioplasty technique with a good prognosis for keeping blood vessels open.
The new technique, called CryoPlasty™, employs an angioplasty balloon filled with sub-zero cryogenic fluid. When inflated at the site of a blockage, the balloon freezes the arterial wall, inhibiting the cells that form scar tissue. Early results are promising. For example, about 50% of all patients who undergo standard angioplasty in the femoral (thigh) artery will end up needing another procedure within one year. With CryoPlasty, that figure drops to 20% or less.
According to interventional radiologists at Froedtert & Medical College, CryoPlasty will not completely replace regular angioplasty. They expect the new technique will have the most impact on procedures involving the femoral artery and the popliteal (behind the knee) artery — two blood vessels that tend to be problem areas because of leg motion. The technique could also end up being very important for dialysis patients, since scar tissue often builds up in dialysis shunts.