New imaging technique could prevent amputation

25 January 2016        

Category: Research

Mr Modarai looking at a scan before operating

New research published by our researchers in the scientific journal JACC could prevent the need for amputation in people suffering from a disease called critical limb ischemia.

Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is a serious condition which occurs when the arteries in the limbs become blocked, dramatically reducing blood flow to the feet and legs. Up to 30 per cent of patients with CLI eventually have to have the affected limb amputated.

Watch our video where the lead researcher and a vascular surgeon explains the research.

In surgery

In order to treat CLI the blocked part of the artery has to be either bypassed during surgery or widened using a small piece of expandable mesh called a stent.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerised tomography (CT) scans are used to image the main arteries in the affected limb so that a surgeon can understand which area of the artery needs to be operated upon. However, these scans are not perfect – they cannot give the surgeon information about the smallest blood vessels in the legs, or be used to tell how much blood is actually being sent to the limb's muscle.

Helping surgeons

Now researchers we funded at Kings College London and St Thomas' Hospital, London have developed a new way of mapping blood delivered to the leg muscle immediately after operations on people with severely reduced blood flow to their limbs.

Surgeon and BHF Intermediate Research Fellow, Mr Bijan Modarai, who led the research, said: "Here at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust we treat over 500 people with critical limb ischemia each year. By using this new imaging technique we hope to be better placed to offer the best possible treatment to people suffering from this disease and therefore reduce the likelihood of limb amputation."

Improving patient care for CLI

Valerie Ellis, 70 from Dartford, had surgery in 2015 to treat critical limb ischemia in her right leg.

She said: "The pain in my foot was terrible, I couldn't lie down or get to sleep at night. I saw my GP and was sent to St Thomas' where they did some scans and found that a blood vessel in my right leg was clogged. The surgical team there fitted two stents to widen the artery in my leg and improve the blood flow to my foot.

"It's brilliant to know that there are researchers out there looking into this very painful disease."

Fund future research

Help us fund more research to improve diagnosis and treatment of heart and circulatory diseases like CLI by donating today.