Mercy Health – Cincinnati, which provides advanced, compassionate, quality care in your neighborhood through its care network, announces that Mercy Health Physician and endovascular surgeon Andrew Hearn, MD is testing new technology at West Hospital to care for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). West Hospital is one of only two hospitals in Ohio approved to trial the innovative technology, called shockwave lithotripsy.

PAD is a condition in which fatty deposits narrow the arteries in the limbs, usually the legs, and it affects nearly nine million people in the United States. It causes poor circulation that can lead to pain, numbness and non-healing wounds. Patients with advanced PAD and diabetes are at high risk for losing a leg to amputation

“These fatty plaque deposits can be heavily calcified and hardened to a bone-like strength, making the them difficult to clear,” says Dr. Hearn. “In these cases, traditional treatments, including balloon angioplasty and stenting, may not open the arteries.”

Shockwave lithotripsy takes the ultrasound technology used to break up kidney stones without damaging tissue and uses it to clear PAD blockages in the legs before a traditional balloon angioplasty.

“This is a minimally invasive procedure that takes about an hour to complete with the patient under light sedation in the cath lab,” says Dr. Hearn. “From the femoral artery, I thread a catheter that contains a small generator that produces therapeutic sonic pressure waves to the site of the blockage. The waves help fracture the calcified plaque and at that point, I inflate the angioplasty balloon to expand the artery and restore blood flow to the leg.”

After a recovery time of about one hour, patients go home with a band aid. 

Dr. Hearn will be studying the results of his patients over the next six months and notes that those who have undergone the procedure thus far experience almost immediate improvement in their circulation and also their PAD symptoms.

“This intervention can help prevent amputations and help save lives,” says Dr. Hearn, noting that the mortality rate after amputation is 50%. “I’m pleased to offer this new technology to patients in Cincinnati.”