Radiation Brachytherapy

Why is the doctor performing this procedure?

To open up a repeatedly narrowed or blocked peripheral artery, using radiation to keep it open over time. Here is what happens:

  • Peripheral artery narrowing or blockage occurs (called atherosclerosis), requiring treatment.
  • Angioplasty with stent placement is performed.
  • Following angioplasty with stent placement, 15-25% of patients will unfortunately experience restenosis (recurrent narrowing or blockage of that artery), usually because of aggressive scar formation over the previously placed stent.
  • A second angioplasty procedure is required to open up the restenosis.
  • Radiation brachytherapy is now performed as part of the second angioplasty procedure, using radiation to prevent any further restenosis.

What is the procedure?

"Brachytherapy" means radiation therapy focused within a small and very specific part of a heart artery. Brachytherapy is only utilized for cases requiring a second angioplasty (PTCA) due to restenosis (or re-narowing of the artery) from a previously placed stent. For these cases, the patient has an angioplasty procedure to re-open the re-narrowed artery. Then, a separate catheter is inserted, this time with a row or "ribbon" of radioactive isotopes attached. These isotopes can be either Gamma or Beta radiated. The catheter is advanced in the artery to the previously placed stent. The ribbon of isotopes is left in place, directly delivering radiation to this very focused area, for 5 - 20 minutes. The catheter is removed, pressure is applied to stop bleeding, and the patient must rest flat for several hours.

Where is the procedure performed?

Radiation Brachytherapy is performed in the Catheterization Lab.

How long does this procedure take?

Radiation Brachytherapy with angioplasty usually takes 1-2 hours.