Tech to Table
Acadiana's latest local medical innovations, plus tips for after care and prevention
While much of medical care centers around the knowledge and skill of doctors, the right equipment can allow a doctor to apply their expertise in a way that consistently creates better outcomes for patients. Throughout Acadiana, hospitals are utilizing exciting new innovations to improve the quality of their treatments.
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that occur when vein walls or valves become damaged. Old age, high blood pressure, and pregnancy can cause them. They’re not life-threatening, but they can be painful and their appearance can make people feel self-conscious.
Why Does Someone Get Varicose Veins?
The Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org) lists a number of causes for varicose veins. Age is a big factor as the wear and tear on your veins’ valves increases with time. Women are more likely to develop varicose veins. Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause may be a factor. Like many diseases and ailments, family history can play a role as well. Obesity puts added pressure on your veins. Also, it’s best to find a job that requires neither too much standing nor sitting (yes, it does seem like a catch-22). If you’re in the same position for long periods of time, your blood will not flow as well.
In the past, if patients had vein disease like varicose veins, doctors would treat them with vein stripping, an invasive and painful procedure. Treatment options evolved with procedures like thermal ablation, which uses a laser to fix the veins. But the heat from the laser could still cause pain and bruising. Now, the Acadiana Vascular Clinic is excited to offer its patients VenaSeal, a specially formulated medical adhesive that closes the diseased vein.
In a simple outpatient procedure, the adhesive is placed in the vein with a small catheter. It’s guided via ultrasound technology. Pressure is then applied to the leg to help seal the vein. The catheter is removed and a bandaid is placed over the insertion site. While laser procedures require sedation, the VenaSeal procedure does not.
“You drive yourself to the procedure, you get it done and you drive yourself home,” said Karyn Periou, marketing director and LPN at the Acadiana Vascular Clinic.
Periou said patients see dramatic aesthetic improvements immediately after the procedure. In addition to these benefits, compression socks are not required (they are after any laser procedure or vein stripping). In a state with Louisiana’s heat and humidity, that ends up being a huge bonus for patients!
The Best Diet for Varicose Veins
Extra weight can cause varicose veins to form, and this is something patients can control with better diet and nutrition. Vein Clinics of America (veinclinics.com) recommended avocados, beets, asparagus, rosemary, ginger, cherries and apples. Cherries and apples are full of rutin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improving vein strength. It’s also an anti-inflammatory that helps prevent blood clots. Ginger and rosemary are both known to increase circulation. Asparagus and avocados are full of vitamins and minerals. Beets lower a naturally-occurring amino acid in the body that can attack blood vessels.
A disc replacement replaces a deteriorating or worn out disc with an artificial one (made of either metal or a combination of metal and plastic). It requires general anesthesia and a hospital stay. It is the most common alternative to spinal fusion surgery, where two vertebrae are permanently joined together.
Why Is Lumbar Disc Replacement Necessary?
As it is with any surgery, decisions will be made in collaboration with the patient and their doctor. Johns Hopkins (HopkinsMedicine.org) said the procedure can help resolve back pain, but not everyone is a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement surgery. They said generally lumbar disc replacement is recommended for patients who have no significant joint disease or compression of the nerves of their lower spine, are not significantly overweight, haven’t previously had spinal surgery and do not have scoliosis or any other type of spinal deformity.
Total Disc Replacement
Total disc replacement for cervical and lumbar discs is by no means a new concept. However, it is increasingly gaining acceptance among insurance companies, which means it’s becoming much more common among doctors. Dr. Alan Appley, a neurosurgeon with Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center, is excited to perform this procedure for his patients.
The previously favored procedure for people with cervical or lumbar disc issues was fusion, which removed the damaged disc and used bone grafts or implants to replace it. However, this procedure has its downsides. Dr. Appley said he prefers the total disc replacement.
“It’s superior to fusion because you preserve motion and you don’t put stress on the remaining discs, which accelerates their deterioration,” Dr. Appley said.
The new discs are now more advanced than they used to be, too. In the past, they would be made of metal, which would reduce the ability to examine the area on future MRIs. Now, they are made with polyetheretherketone (PEEK), a type of plastic, and ceramics.
Dr. Appley also said it’s now possible to replace two discs at once (two-level replacement). In the past, patients would only do one per surgery. In addition to this, he said hybrid procedures will become more commonplace in the future. In this case, a patient who initially received a fusion surgery can later receive a total disc replacement to replace another damaged disc.
What to Do After Total Disc Replacement
According to Johns Hopkins (HopkinsMedicine.org), patients will need to exercise patience after undergoing a total disc replacement. Physical therapy will be needed to show the patient how to move properly and how to do exercises (e.g. mild trunk twists). Doing the physical therapy will help ensure a quicker recovery. Walking and stretching will be encouraged, but jarring activities and motions should be avoided for a while. Recovery times may vary depending on the patient, so it is always best to stay in contact with your doctor and physical therapist.
Blood clots can be silent killers. If they form in the veins of a person’s legs, arms or groin, they can break loose and move to other parts of your body. Among other potential problems, if it travels to your heart our lungs, it can get stuck and prevent blood flow to those vital organs and cause a potentially fatal emergency.
Stop Clots Before They Happen
The Mayo Clinic (MayoClinic.org) said a sedentary lifestyle can cause blood clots. Losing weight, lowering high blood pressure, quitting smoking and regular exercise can all help. But one thing people may not realize is dangerous is long car or air travel. If you’re on a long flight, get up and walk down the aisle to go to the bathroom periodically even if your bladder isn’t about to burst. If you’re on a long road trip, take stops to get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes. Also, drink plenty of water during long trips as dehydration can lead to clotting.
Indigo Aspiration System
At the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, doctors are using Penumbra’s Indigo Aspiration System to safely remove clots in a minimally invasive way.
Previous treatments for blood clots included using small wires to break up the clots. But Dr. Ujjwal Rastogi, a cardiologist with the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, said this method risks accidentally sending the clot to a different part of the body. While manually aspirating the clot has worked in the past, there is also uncertainty with this procedure. Success can hinge on the individual person and the size/location of the clot. The clot can get stuck in the syringe, and if this happens it can get pushed back into the body.
The Indigo Aspiration applies constant vacuum-style pressure, which guarantees it will go into the tube instead of back into the patient’s body. In addition to this, it makes recovery for the patient easier, too. It can prevent patients from needing stents after the clot removal as well as eliminating the need for taking blood thinners regularly.
The Cardiovascular Institute of the South started using this technology in early 2021 and feedback from doctors and patients has been great.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get this technology,” said Dr. Rastogi.