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Cardiac Cath Lab Makes History With First Laser Treatments

The first laser atherectomy ever performed in Solano County took place at NorthBay Medical Center in February. An atherectomy is a procedure that actually removes plaque from the artery walls of patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to interventional cardiologist Milind Dhond, M.D.

Atherectomies have been performed in NorthBay Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization lab since last fall. This technology uses a catheter inserted into the body and threaded to the blockage, where plaque is scraped away with a cutting blade. Laser atherectomy replaces the blade with an ultraviolet light that vaporizes artery blockages into particles smaller than a red blood cell, which are easily absorbed into the blood stream.

This is the latest technology brought to Fairfield by the NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center.

PAD is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries restrict the flow of blood leading to the arms, legs, kidneys and stomach. The primary reason for clogged arteries is the build-up of a waxy substance called plaque.

PAD is traditionally treated with procedures such as balloon angioplasty or the insertion of a stent where the artery was narrowed. While these procedures widen the artery, they simply displace the plaque. Atherectomies actually remove the plaque from clogged arteries.

“With the new laser we’re bringing the latest technology to our local area,” says Dr. Dhond, who performed the laser atherectomy. “To offer this in Solano County is a huge step forward in care for PAD patients.”

The laser has been very useful at teaching hospitals to treat disease above- and below-the-knee. The laser has the ability to reach very small arteries and can even be used in the foot, according to Dr. Dhond.

Many people with PAD have mild or no symptoms. About one in 10 experiences leg pain when walking – a condition called intermittent claudication. It’s characterized by muscle pain in the legs or arms that is triggered by activity. The pain is caused by insufficient oxygen reaching the muscles and disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain indicates the site of the clogged artery. Calf pain is the most common symptom of intermittent claudication.

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