Angiogenesis: One Nurse's Journey and Quest for Treatment

Debra Woodard, RN, BSN, MA

Disclosures

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2004;4(3) 

In This Article

Introduction

Growing new blood vessels sounds like the makings of a science fiction movie. Not so -- it is cutting edge medical technology in the area of cardiovascular medicine. As recently as 2 years ago, the diagnosis of coronary heart disease, especially uncontrolled angina, meant that treatment options were limited to medications, angioplasty, and surgical revascularization. All options were aimed at reducing symptoms and improving functional ability. However, despite maximum therapy, many patients remained symptomatic and subsequently exhausted all treatment options. Cardiac disease, to date, remains the leading cause of death in the Western world.

To many, the diagnosis of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), particularly peripheral arterial disease (PAD), meant excruciating and unrelenting pain when walking, and eventually pain even at rest. Eight to 12 million people suffer from PAD in the United States.[1] Past treatment options were even more limited and included bypass grafting that often failed or amputation of the limb(s). Today, 133,000 patients per year become amputees, with PVD being the leading cause.[2]

Until recently, diagnoses of PVD and PAD held a life filled with disability with a shortened life span. Now there is hope and a brighter future for the sickest of these patients as researchers are injecting failing hearts, occluded coronary arteries, and vessels in legs with a patient's own stem cells or DNA that will grow new vessels around the occlusion, thereby restoring circulation.

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