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Devices clear plaque from arteries.

Devices clear plaque from arteries

Early clinical trials on plaque-busting devices have some researchers envisioning them eventually replacing balloon angioplasty--a method that has gained widespread use in the 1980s--as a means of opening obstructed arteries.

One researcher presenting new findings is John B. Simpson, a cardiologist at Sequoia Hospital of Redwood City, Calif., who has tested a plaque-scraping catheter in 33 patients. "Our initial experience with the device has been encouraging," he says. His device is being tested in eight medical centers, and so far it has removed fatty build-up without significant side effects, Simpson says.

Robert Ginsburg of Stanford University Medical Center says he has used a "grinder" device on 40 patients. Ginsburg is testing the U.S.-developed catheter with a burr on the end that grinds away fat and calcium deposits. The device "literally polishes the inside of a diseased vessel," he says. The device is being tested worldwide and at one other U.S. center.

One important difference between the two devices: Simpson's collects and removes plaque from the body, while the grinder throws debris into the bloodstream. Many cardiologists worry that the loose particles may cause clotting and other problems. Ginsburg says patients have suffered no ill effects so far. He points out that a piece of ground-up plaque is 5 to 7 microns, smaller than the average red blood cell.
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Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 26, 1988
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