Revolutionary treatment for dealing with blood vessel disease could provide hope for 5,000 Britons a year at risk of amputation
- The new treatment is used with patients suffering critical limb ischaemia
- The condition, caused by lifestyle factors, severely affects a patient’s mobility
People at risk of losing limbs from severe blood flow problems could be spared life-changing amputation thanks to a revolutionary treatment.
The new procedure, called LimFlow, treats a type of blood vessel disease called critical limb ischaemia, where blockages in the arteries cut off the blood supply to the legs and feet.
The condition – which is usually caused by lifestyle factors –severely affects mobility, and each year in the UK about 5,000 people have to undergo amputation.
But a US study shows that with LimFlow, three-quarters of patients get to keep their legs.
About 30 NHS patients have already received the treatment as part of an ongoing trial, in which surgeons insert small tubes into the leg which divert the blood flow around the blockages to return supply to the foot. While the results of this trial are yet to be published, the procedure was deemed so effective that three NHS hospitals have requested to continue using the technology.
People at risk of losing limbs from severe blood flow problems could be spared life-changing amputation thanks to a revolutionary treatment
The condition – which is usually caused by lifestyle factors –severely affects mobility, and each year in the UK about 5,000 people have to undergo amputation
Experts believe that it could now be available across the NHS within two years.
‘LimFlow is a novel alternative to major amputation, providing hope where previously there has been none,’ says Dr Mehdi Shishehbor, cardiologist at Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, who has led the US study. ‘The results from this study are excellent and it’s very clear that LimFlow is a powerful tool for avoiding amputation.’
Critical limb ischaemia affects about 60,000 people in the UK every year. Fatty deposits build up in the leg arteries, causing the blood vessels to narrow over time, reducing circulation to the legs and feet. This means wounds and ulcers are slow to heal, and life-threatening infections become more likely.
While there are a number of treatments, including inserting a stent – a tiny mesh tube – into the artery to widen the vessel, these are often unsuccessful.
During the LimFlow procedure, which is carried out using local anaesthetic, two tubes are inserted into the patient – one through their groin and one through their ankle. When the tubes meet at the point of the blockage, they are connected together, allowing the blood to flow around the build-up of deposits.
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