BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Navigating the complex circulatory roadways of the human veins and arteries is not an easy task. However it is necessary for patients who have blockages.
"There's no flow going down through the main artery," said cardiac expert Dr. John Simpson.
In one case, surgeons at Baton Rouge General Hospital needed to clear a blocked artery in the leg of the patient who also has diabetes. The illness has caused the patient ulcers on his feet, and blocked arteries meant the ulcers couldn't properly heal.
"What is done in order to help the healing of these ulcers, you have to maximize blood flow," said surgeon Dr. Glen Schwartzberg.
Traditionally, surgeons insert a small guide wire followed by a catheter to clear the blockage. Then doctors can insert things like a balloon or a stint to keep the clogged blood vessel open.
However, the biggest challenge in this, is finding the way through these tiny veins.
"When crossing blocked arteries, the key is to maintain a central location in the artery," said Schwartzberg. "You don't want to get off in the side. Before the advent of the Ocelot, it was sort of just by feel and by indirect evidence from angiography."
"Historically we've only had x-ray that came in from the outside and it's fuzzy," said Simpson.
Louisiana doctors now have a revolutionary new road map, giving them an inside look like never before.
"This is a picture from the inside, it's more sharp, it's more clear, it's a much better orientation of what's going on inside the artery realistically. "
Simpson helped to develop the Ocelot Catheter, a revolutionary new tool with a tiny drill and a camera that uses light pulses to paint a clear picture of the inside of an artery.
Seeing inside an artery allows surgeons to be very precise in the placement of a catheter, minimizing damage to a vessel and maximizing the amount of plaque removed.
"At this point, we're probably 60-70 percent successful in crossing blocked arteries. Based on the literature this is going to bring it up to 95-99 percent. So it's a dramatic improvement," said Schwartzberg.
Improving the success rate of procedures using a catheter is important to patients because the alternative is living with a painful blockage, a bypass surgery or at worse an amputation.
The ocelot catheter is brand new technology, approved by the FDA just six weeks ago. Baton Rouge General is the first hospital in Louisiana to purchase and use the more than $200,000 equipment.