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New Minimally Invasive Procedure Offers Relief for Severe Leg Pain by Cleaning Out the Arteries

Sioux Valley Hospital patients now have another alternative in the treatment of a painful condition known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

Sioux Valley Hospital patients now have another alternative in the treatment of a painful condition known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD). The SilverHawk™ Plaque Excision System is a new FDA-cleared device for the safe removal of harmful plaque from blocked arteries in the legs.

This unique device uses a tiny rotating blade the size of a grain of rice to shave away large quantities of plaque from inside the artery. As it is excised, the plaque collects in the tip of the device and then is removed from the patient.

Before the arrival of plaque excision, treatments for PVD included angioplasty, stenting and open bypass surgery, an invasive procedure which requires creating a large incision and involves a hospital stay. Both angioplasty and stenting clear a channel in the artery for blood flow by pushing plaque up against the artery walls. However, patients often return within six months to have the procedure repeated because plaque has crept back into the artery and blocked it again.

The SilverHawk device used by Sioux Valley cleans out the artery by removing the plaque altogether. Like angioplasty, plaque excision is a minimally invasive procedure performed through a tiny puncture site.

“Some of my patients cannot walk half a block without feeling severe cramping in their legs”, commented Dr. Tom Stys, Interventional Cardiologist with Sioux Valley Clinic – Heart Partners. “This device provides great relief to those patients and has improved their quality of life immensely.”

PVD affects nearly 12 million people in the United States. Similar to cardiovascular disease, PVD is caused by the buildup of fat and cholesterol, known as plaque, which disrupts normal blood flow to arteries in the vascular system. Symptoms of the disease often include severe pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg. Leg pain, known as claudication, can be so extreme that patients may have difficulty in walking short distances.

If left untreated, PVD ultimately can lead to amputations. Last year alone, over 150,000 amputations were performed in the U.S. In a number of hospitals across the country, plaque excision has been used to save the patient’s leg from amputation after other peripheral interventions have failed.

Those at risk of developing PVD include patients with high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Other contributing factors include obesity, smoking and an inactive lifestyle. Screening for peripheral vascular disease is simple and painless so consult with your physician to find out if you are at risk.

“Using this procedure, we can remove large quantities of plaque entirely instead of simply compressing it against the vessel wall and hoping it won’t come back,” said Dr. Stys. “Cleaning out the arteries effectively gives a patient’s legs a second chance.”

About the SilverHawk System

The SilverHawk System was developed by FoxHollow Technologies, a medical device company located in Redwood City, CA. The company was founded by Dr. John B. Simpson, a noted interventional cardiologist responsible for developing many other minimally invasive devices now routinely used in treating coronary and peripheral arterial disease. For additional information on SilverHawk or FoxHollow Technologies, please visit