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peripheral artery disease, or PAD, partial blockages of blood vessels that can cause intense leg pain and circulatory problems. The standard treatment in many cases is amputation, according to Steinke.
A number of other biomedical companies have been modifying stents developed for coronary care for use in the legs, but Steinke regards the knee in particular as a “no stent zone.” He views atherectomies as even more problematic; the surgical procedure uses a laser catheter or a rotating shaver to blast or shave away the waxy buildup inside arterial walls, and Steinke worries that debris generated from an atherectomy just causes more downstream complications.
Steinke says his design represents an improvement in existing technology by adding electrodes to the outside of the balloon catheter, which is threaded inside a blood vessel to the site where an artery is constricted. The electrodes use radiofrequency energy to heat the targeted plaque to temperatures that range from 122 degrees to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s not enough to make your blood boil, but Minnow says the energy “denatures” the plaque, breaking molecular bonds so that much of the hardened fatty buildup seems to dissolve with very little effort. As a result, Steinke says it takes about one-third less atmospheric pressure to inflate the balloon (which is basically designed to squish the plaque against the inside of the artery wall) so the angioplasty procedure works with far better effect. “The artery takes the shape of the balloon angioplasty catheter and remains that way for several weeks,” Steinke says. So far, Minnow has secured one patent covering its technology and has 11 patent applications pending.
Steinke says Minnow’s device is intended eventually for heart patients with atherosclerotic disease, a multibillion-dollar market. But first Minnow has targeted non-coronary patients with peripheral artery disease, a worldwide market the company estimates at about 27 million people—with 10 to 12 million in the United States. Minnow’s device so far has been used to successfully … Next Page »
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