Implant to spare patients from limb loss
By Ethan Ennals
dmg media (UK)
PEOPLE with severe blood flow problems may soon be able to get a revolutionary treatment that can spare them from amputation. The procedure, called LimFlow, treats a type of blood vessel disease called critical limb ischaemia, where blockages in the arteries cut off the blood supply to the legs and feet. The condition, which is usually caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking or being overweight, severely affects mobility and leads to roughly 5,000 amputations a year in the UK. But LimFlow can significantly reduce the risk of limb-loss, according to trial results about to be published. The procedure involves inserting small tubes into the leg which divert the blood flow around the blockages to return supply to the foot. Once the UK findings are published, health regulators will be able to decide whether to offer the innovative treatment on the NHS. NHS spending watchdog NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has already begun a review of LimFlow and is expected to publish its decision by the end of the year. Last week, the US medical regulators the Food and Drug Administration approved LimFlow for patients who had not responded to other critical limb ischaemia treatments, which include lifestyle changes, medicine and surgery. The move followed a US study, published in April, that found that three in four patients given the procedure were able to avoid amputation. LimFlow spokesman John Weaver said launching the procedure in the UK was now a ‘top priority’ for the company. Critical limb ischaemia affects about 60,000 Britons every year. Fatty deposits build up in the leg arteries, causing the blood vessels to narrow over time, reducing circulation to the legs and feet. This means wounds and ulcers are slow to heal and life-threatening infections become more likely. While there are a number of treatments, including inserting a stent – a tiny mesh tube – into the artery to widen the vessel, these are often unsuccessful. During the LimFlow procedure, which is carried out using local anaesthetic, two tubes are inserted into the patient – one through their groin and one through their ankle. The tubes are connected where they meet, at the point of the blockage. This allows the blood to flow around the build-up of fatty deposits.