Minimally Invasive Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease: Dave Kirschner’s Story

In 2008, Dave Kirschner chose to retire from a successful 50-year career in the radio business. For years, CNN Radio listeners listened to him as he brought them up to speed on current events. Now, Kirschner spends his time working around the house, staying in touch with industry friends, and working out on the treadmill several times a week. However, when he began to notice a recurring pain shooting down the back of his right leg during exercise, he was concerned.

At first, Kirschner thought that he might have a pulled muscle, so he attempted to ease the pain with stretching, massage, and over-the-counter remedies. When nothing worked, he realized that he may have a deeper problem, and he called his internal medicine doctor.

His doctor conducted a test called an Ankle Brachial Pressure Index, or ABI—which revealed that Kirschner was suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD).  As we’ve described in previous blog posts, PAD develops when arteries become clogged with plaque and fatty deposits that limit the flow of blood to extremities, especially the legs.

The major symptom that Kirschner was experiencing is called intermittent claudication—a pain that occurs during periods of exercise, such as walking or climbing the stairs. When we exercise our muscles require more blood flow—if there is blockage in the blood vessels, the muscles don’t receive enough blood, which causes intermittent claudication.

The first Atlanta cardiology group that Kirschner visited recommended that he have a stent inserted into his leg to unblock the artery. However, this option wasn’t appealing to him—he’d had cardiac bypass surgery in the past and wanted to avoid invasive surgery if at all possible.

Kirschner proceeded to search for other alternatives for PAD treatment—he researched the Internet and asked several of his trusted friends for advice. He even considered traveling out-of-state to find a facility that would offer what he was looking for. Finally, he spoke with a podiatrist friend, who recommended that he contact me at Emory.

After examining Mr. Kirschner, we reviewed his options and decided that a minimally invasive outpatient procedure would be the best way to treat his condition. We used a recently developed device to shave away the plaque in his arteries—the device deploys a tiny rotating blade on the tip of a catheter to remove plaque from the arterial wall. This procedure has been extremely successful in helping patients to prevent blood flow problems that could potentially result in something as serious as amputation.

The device doesn’t stretch the blood vessel wall, unlike the use of stents. It is used to treat calcified and non-calcified lesions of any length. Further, it is minimally invasive and doesn’t require that we open up the leg.

Kirschner’s procedure took less than two hours. When he asked me how long I thought it would be before he could go back to working out, he was shocked when I replied, “How about tomorrow?” He left our office the same day that he went in, with only a tiny incision at the top of his leg, covered by a band-aid.

Today, Kirschner can hit the gym and exercise with no pain. His workout regimen consists of hour-long walks, which he enjoys without any problems. We’re thrilled that we were able to treat his condition with our innovative technology, and we look forward to achieving the same results with future patients suffering from PAD.

About Gregory Robertson, MD:

Dr. Robertson specializes in Cardiology and Internal Medicine, and is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory. Some of his areas of clinical interest include atherosclerosis, cardiac catheterization, cardiovascular disease, valve disease, and peripheral artery disease. Dr. Robertson holds an organizational leadership membership at The American College of Cardiology, and has contributed to multiple publications in his field.

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