Let There Be Light

April 24, 2014

The Latest Technology Available Treats Peripheral Artery Disease Only at Saint Peter’s

   The distance did not matter. Whether he was walking across the street or from his bedroom to the bathroom or kitchen, Bernard Pajak’s legs hurt. They felt heavy, stiff. “My muscles, calves, thighs - all of them hurt,’’ Mr. Pajak recalls. “It was just terrible. I couldn’t do much without stopping to rest.”

That was last year. Today, Mr. Pajak, a 70-year-old from Princeton, likes to brag that he can keep up with his fit wife when they go for a walk. “Sometimes, I even pass her, I’m walking so well. I feel fantastic,” he says enthusiastically.

It was peripheral artery disease (PAD) that slowed Mr. Pajak down. The arteries of his legs were blocked by plaque making it difficult for blood to flow. A common circulatory problem, it most often affects the feet and lower legs. PAD can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and even lead to gangrene and amputation of limbs.

Using the latest cutting edge technology, Ramzan Zakir, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the Peripheral Vascular Program at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, opened the blockages in his legs. Dr. Zakir used the promising new weapon in the fight against PAD, a new imaging system called Lightbox. Manufactured by Avinger Technologies, this technology, only available in Central Jersey at Saint Peter’s, provides physicians with a clearer picture of the blockage in the arteries, allowing them to operate more safely and effectively. The procedure is performed in the New Brunswick Cardiac Catheterization Lab in the Center for

Ambulatory Resources (CARES), adjacent to Saint Peter’s. “This is a real game-changer,” says Dr. Zakir. “It allows us to tackle more complex cases with enhanced safety and higher success rates.”  Ramzan Zakir, M.D.

Most patients who suffer difficulty walking as a result of PAD are first treated with medications and exercise therapy. For patients who continue to have difficulty walking or have wounds that do not heal, a procedure to open blockages is recommended. In approximately 40 percent of patients who suffer from PAD, the artery that supplies blood flow to the foot is totally blocked. Navigating through these long blockages without damaging the arteries themselves has been challenging.

“The new technology uses light waves coming from the tip of a catheter to help us see as it goes through the blockage,” says Stephan Haspel, R.N., manager of cardiac catheterization. “This allows us to stay away from good tissue.”  Mr. Pajak is looking forward to spring for many reasons, and not just because we’ve had a snow-filled winter. “I have a good- sized property at home and I’m used to cutting my own grass, cleaning and pruning my own shrubs, and planting. I couldn’t do any of this last year,’’ he remembers. “Now, I feel great! I feel so good, and you just don’t know what feeling good is until you do feel good.”

For more information or questions contact the New Brunswick Cardiac Catheterization Lab, located in the Center for Ambulatory Resources (CARES) at Saint Peter’s, at 732-565-5458 or visit

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