An ultrasound and CT scan early this year showed that an artery in Erickson's thigh was almost completely blocked, confirming that her troubles were caused by peripheral arterial disease, or PAD - a condition in which arteries to the arms, legs or internal organs are hardened and narrowed or obstructed.
This week at Stanford University Medical Center, Erickson became the first patient in the United States to receive a new treatment for PAD as part of a clinical trial. On March 21, Stanford researchers implanted a drug-coated, flexible, metal-mesh tube called a drug-eluting stent into the superficial femoral artery in Erickson's thigh. Researchers hope the drug coating will make it more likely to prevent the blockage from recurring, as compared with uncoated stents, which fail to do so in about one-quarter of the cases.
"We already know the benefits of drug-coated stents for the treatment of coronary artery disease," said Michael Dake, MD, a former Stanford faculty member who recently became chair of radiology at the University of Virginia and is the principal investigator of the multi-center study. "We're hoping to translate that success to the peripheral circulation, especially in the legs where blockages can be disabling."
Peripheral arterial disease afflicts 8 million to 12 million Americans, many of whom have not been diagnosed, according to the American Heart Association. The most common symptoms are pain in the legs or buttocks while walking or climbing stairs. Risk factors for PAD are the same as for heart disease: smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and a high cholesterol level. People with PAD are also at high risk for heart attacks and strokes. The disease can be treated with diet,