Balloons coated with paclitaxel can help keep blood flowing in clogged leg arteries better than plain angioplasty balloons, according to findings in the New England Journal of Medicine quoted by media reports Thursday.
The balloon technique is usually effective at restoring blood flow to the leg, but about half the arteries close again within a year, often as muscle cells grow into the area.
These so-called drug eluting balloons have been seen as an alternative to drug-coated stents -- little mesh tubes often used to hold an artery open after angioplasty, Dr. Gunnar Tepe of Eberhard-Karls University in Tubingen, Germany and his teams reported.
Doctors used balloons sprayed with the drug to press the medicine directly against the artery walls of 48 patients as the device was expanded.
In another 52 volunteers, doctors mixed a high dose of the drug into the contrast medium that was injected into the site so X-rays could track the progress of the procedure.
Another 54 people did not receive paclitaxel in any form.
Six months surgery, 37 percent of the people who did not get Taxol and 29 percent of those who got their paclitaxel in the contrast medium needed to have their arteries reopened compared to only 4 percent of those who got the drug via the coated balloon.
By the two-year mark, 15 percent treated with the coated balloon needed further surgery, far fewer than the 40 percent who got the paclitaxel contrast medium and 52 percent who received no paclitaxel at all.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2008)