Healthline: Baton Rouge hosts European doctors

Healthline: PAD device
The Phoenix atherectomy system busts through plaque that builds up inside the leg arteries (Source: Philips-Volcano)
The Phoenix atherectomy system busts through plaque that builds up inside the leg arteries (Source: Philips-Volcano)


A group of European doctors wants to know what's going on in Baton Rouge. The vascular surgeons made the trip across the Atlantic to learn more about a device that’s being used to save limbs from amputation.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) happens when plaque builds up inside the arteries blocking blood flow in the legs and feet. Possible complications include heart attack, stroke, and leg amputation.

“With more people having diabetes, more baby boomers obviously being older, it's a perfect storm if you will for more people to have more blockage in their arteries and more interventions are going to be needed in the future,” said Dr. Joseph Griffin.

A plaque-busting device called the Phoenix was first tested in 2010 at Cardiovascular Institute of the South. Approved by the FDA in 2014, the catheter is being used at Baton Rouge General through the Vascular Specialty Center. Dr. Griffin has treated over 100 patients so far. The outpatient procedure does not require full anesthesia.

“If they are not a surgical candidate and do not want to undergo a very large and major vascular procedure, we can do this more on an outpatient angiography setting,” Griffin explained. “It's less invasive for the patient.”

The Phoenix is made by Philips-Volcano. Doctors like it because it's simple to use and disposable. Tiny blades cut away plaque, which the device then immediately sucks away. The procedure is called an atherectomy, and it's much more common in the United States than Europe.

“A few years ago people were placing lots of stents in the arteries,” said Robert De Boer visiting from Belgium. “Nowadays the idea is more if you can place less it's better.”

As the device spreads throughout Europe, the company is training doctors in places where they've seen the most success. It's international recognition for the advanced vascular procedures happening in Baton Rouge.

“We felt that it would help with their training to come and see cases, observe cases, speak with physicians, get their ideas on when, where and how to use it,” said Susan Wright, a medical education trainer for Philips-Volcano.

PAD is treatable when caught early, but the disease often goes unrecognized, because the main symptom of leg cramps is regarded by many as an inevitable consequence of aging.

The following symptoms can be indicators of PAD:

  • style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:3.75pt;background:white;">open ulcer/wound on the bottom of your foot that does not heal
  • style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:3.75pt;background:white;">feeling of pins and needles on the bottom of the foot that goes away with walking
  • style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:3.75pt;background:white;">stabbing pain in the ball of your foot that goes away with walking
  • style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:3.75pt;background:white;">severe cramping (a Charlie horse) in your calf after walking or exercising that goes away immediately when stopping  
PAD is caused by the same risk factors that lead to heart disease. Those at risk include anyone over the age of 50, especially African Americans; those who smoke or have smoked; and those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a personal or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.
For more information on the Phoenix and other options to treat PAD, contact the Vascular Specialty Center at (225) 238-3018.