AHN First in the Region to Use Innovative Technology in Treating Peripheral Artery Disease

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A team of cardio­vas­cular surgeons at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), part of Allegheny Health Network (AHN), has become the first in the region to use a ground­breaking new tech­nology to provide relief for people suffering from periph­eral artery disease (PAD). Highmark Health’s VITAL Innovation Platform part­nered with AHN to intro­duce the tech­nology to the Pittsburgh market.

Affecting nearly 20 million adults annu­ally in the U.S., PAD is caused by a build-​up of plaque that blocks blood flow in the arteries of the legs or feet. Until recently, physi­cians treating PAD through inter­ven­tional means relied on the use of X-​ray and a touch-​and-​feel approach to guide their way through the arteries to the area of obstruc­tion. Now, through an advanced imaging tool called optical coher­ence tomog­raphy (OCT), physi­cians are able to navi­gate through arteries more effec­tively and safely to remove block­ages and achieve the best possible outcome for the patient. OCT is the hall­mark of inno­v­a­tive catheter instru­ments devel­oped by California-​based Avinger – called the Ocelot™ lumi­vas­cular and Pantheris™ atherec­tomy systems – that are being used by the AGH team.

Previously, the way we treated PAD with catheters was a bit like driving down your street in the dark,” said Satish C. Muluk, MD, Director of the Division of Vascular Surgery and Vice Chair of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at AHN. You might know where you’re going, but you can’t see every­thing along the way. Using Ocelot and Pantheris, however, is like turning on the head­lights.

We now have the ability to clearly see our way through the artery. This means there is less risk of damaging the artery walls, which can lead to an aggres­sive healing-​and-​scarring process that increases the risk of restenosis, or a re-​narrowing of the artery after treat­ment.”

Using Pantheris, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in March, physi­cians can see and remove plaque simul­ta­ne­ously during an atherec­tomy, a mini­mally inva­sive proce­dure that involves cutting plaque away from the artery and clearing it to restore blood flow. For a complete blockage of the artery, known as a chronic total occlu­sion (CTO) and some­thing that is more common in older patients, AGH vascular surgeons are also now able to use the Ocelot catheter.

We’ve success­fully treated CTOs with the Ocelot catheter that we other­wise would not have been able to manage inter­ven­tion­ally,” said Bart Chess, MD, an AGH vascular surgeon. With some patients, we will use the Ocelot catheter in conjunc­tion with Pantheris. If there is not a total blockage, then we may only need to use Pantheris.”

Results from a 130-​patient clin­ical trial of the Pantheris device demon­strated a vessel restenosis rate of just 8% and no vessel perfo­ra­tion, clin­i­cally signif­i­cant dissec­tion or late aneurysm.

Often misin­ter­preted as the normal signs of aging, symp­toms of PAD include painful cramping, numb­ness or discol­oration in the legs or feet. PAD can become so severe and diffi­cult to address with tradi­tional treat­ments that patients and physi­cians often resort to under­going inva­sive bypass surg­eries, which can result in addi­tional health risks and lengthy, painful recov­eries. In severe cases, patients often face limb ampu­ta­tion.

Hospitalization costs for PAD exceed $20 billion per year, largely because the disease is often diag­nosed late. This high cost is one of the reasons Highmark Health, the parent company of AHN, chose to use its VITAL program to explore ways of improving patient outcomes from the disease in the most cost-​effective and effi­cient manner.

The mission of the VITAL Innovation Platform is to leverage Highmark Health’s posi­tion as one of the largest inte­grated health care delivery and financing systems in the nation,” said David Holmberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Highmark Health. We devel­oped the VITAL program to produce scien­tific data and accel­erate the pace at which novel tech­nolo­gies and ther­a­pies are offered to patients.”

Launched in 2015, the VITAL plat­form is designed to provide the missing link between FDA approval of an inno­v­a­tive tech­nology and its full reim­burse­ment by commer­cial insurers. VITAL is currently supporting the study of several addi­tional leading-​edge medical break­throughs at AHN hospi­tals, including the LINX® Reflux Management System for treating patients with gastro-​esophageal reflux disease (GERD); the HeartFlow non-​invasive diag­nostic tech­nology that offers physi­cians insight into both the extent of a patient’s coro­nary arte­rial blockage and the impact the blockage has on blood flow; and the Freespira Breathing System for patients who suffer from panic disor­ders and symp­toms of panic.


About Highmark Health

Highmark Health, a Pittsburgh, PA based enter­prise that employs more than 35,000 people nation­wide and serves 40 million Americans in all 50 states, is the third largest inte­grated health care delivery and financing network in the nation. Highmark Health is the parent company of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, and HM Health Solutions. Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affil­i­ates provide health insur­ance to 5.3 million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware as well as dental insur­ance, vision care and related health prod­ucts through a national network of diver­si­fied busi­nesses that include United Concordia Companies, HM Insurance Group, Davis Vision and Visionworks. Allegheny Health Network is the parent company of an inte­grated delivery network that includes eight hospi­tals, a community-​based network of physi­cian orga­ni­za­tions, a group purchasing orga­ni­za­tion, ambu­la­tory surgery centers, and health and well­ness pavil­ions in western Pennsylvania. HM Health Solutions focuses on meeting the infor­ma­tion tech­nology plat­form and other busi­ness needs of the Highmark Health enter­prise as well as unaf­fil­i­ated health insur­ance plans by providing proven busi­ness processes, expert knowl­edge and inte­grated cloud-​based plat­forms. To learn more, please visit www​.high​markhealth​.org or www​.vital​in​no​va​tion​pro​gram​.org or contact Highmark Health at 412−544−0968.