Peripheral Arterial Disease

Most people are aware of the terms “hardening of the arteries” or “atherosclerosis” which is most commonly associated with narrowed or blocked arteries supplying the heart.  The same condition affects arteries in the legs and pelvis.  Symptoms of peripheral artery blockage include pain or cramping during walking often relieved by rest, difficulty walking, weak or tired legs, cold and numb feet or toes, slow healing ulcers.  Health factors that can contribute to this condition include diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure.

Peripheral Arterial Disease is easily detectable with ankle-brachial index(ABI) screening.  This is a non-invasive test that compares the blood pressure in a patient’s arms with that of the patient’s legs using a Doppler probe that measures the systolic pressure in the ankles and arms.  This test measures the quality of blood flow to the legs.  Reduced blood flow to the legs is a sign of peripheral arterial disease.

Angioplasty and vascular stenting are common treatments to reverse the effects of peripheral arterial disease.  In an angioplasty procedure, a small, thin catheter is inserted into the artery and guided to the point where the blockage is building. At that point in the procedure, a small balloon is inflated in the artery.  The balloon pushes the plaque build up against the artery walls increasing blood flow. Stenting is similar to balloon angioplasty in that a wire mesh tube is utilized to compress the plaque and hold the vessel lumen open to increase the bloodflow.  Both procedures are common treatments for arterial blockages.