Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition in which peripheral arteries (most commonly those in the lower legs) become narrowed and restrict blood flow. Sufferers have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and limb amputation. The Leg & Vein Center at Cardiovascular Institute of the South diagnoses and treats cardiovascular conditions in the legs, such as peripheral artery disease and venous disease.



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What You Should Know About PAD

What Causes This Circulatory Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a hardening of the arteries due to build-up or a blockage in an area of the body other than the heart. This is a commonly occurring circulatory problem caused by narrow arteries reducing blood flow to limbs, and it is treatable. Typically, peripheral arterial disease develops in the arms or, more commonly, the legs. As the limb receives inadequate blood flow, it can cause symptoms such as leg pain during movement. This causes frequent misdiagnosis because it can be mistaken as a sign of aging. 

Often, this leg pain can be a sign of atherosclerosis, a condition in which there is a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. The effect of atherosclerosis is a reduction in blood flow. If left untreated, it can result in heart attack, stroke, or limb loss. 

When atherosclerosis impacts the arteries supplying blood to the limbs, the result is the peripheral arterial disease. While atherosclerosis is a major cause of peripheral arterial disease, other causes are plausible. These include blood vessel inflammation, limb injury, unusual anatomy of ligaments and muscles, or individuals who have an increased risk of developing peripheral arterial disease from certain factors. These factors include: 

  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol 
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of heart disease or stroke 
  • High levels of homocysteine

How It Works

Endovenous laser therapy is conducted in a 30-45 minute procedure. You will first be administered local anesthesia to ease any tension or discomfort. Next, your specialist will insert a small catheter into the affected vein and work the catheter towards the groin area. Once the tube has been appropriately placed, your specialist will send small bursts of laser energy into the vein while steadily moving the catheter back out of the vein.

As heat from this laser passes through the vein, the vein walls will contract and close off, preventing blood from flowing through it. As blood changes course into other veins, the varicose vein will begin to reabsorb into the body.

What Are the Risks and Symptoms Associated With Peripheral Arterial Disease?

    • Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that 2/3 of people with PAD have no symptoms, while 1/4 have severe PAD. PAD can be difficult to diagnose, as many patients have no symptoms or symptoms so mild that they give them little consideration. Cramping, fatigue, aching, pain or discomfort when walking, and aching are common symptoms of peripheral arterial disease. Additional signs and symptoms include: 

      • Numbness and weakness in the leg
      • Sores on the toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
      • A visible change in the color of the legs
      • Hair loss or slow growth of leg, and feet hair
      • Coldness in your lower leg or foot
      • And more. 

      Individuals with peripheral artery disease have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. In extreme cases, the peripheral arterial disease can lead to gangrene and amputation.

Diagnosis & Treatment

    • Experts at the Cardiovascular Institute of the South Leg & Vein Center can help diagnose your condition. This is done by performing a physical examination and running an ankle-brachial index (ABI). An ABI is a commonly used test to diagnose peripheral arterial disease that compares the blood pressure in your arm with the blood pressure in your ankle. Other methods for diagnosing peripheral arterial disease include ultrasound, blood tests, and angiography—injecting blood into the blood vessels to easily view arterial blood flow. 

      Once a diagnosis is reached, our experts will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. 

      Treatment for Peripheral Arterial Disease Includes:

      • Prevention—Changing lifestyle habits can slow the progression of peripheral arterial disease during the early stages. There are many ways to go about this, and a doctor can help you establish a lifestyle change game plan. For example, the best thing a smoker can do is to quit smoking. Going on regular walks is also highly recommended. 
      • Medications—Often, if you are showing symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, your doctor will prescribe medications to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, and manage pain. Another important target for medication is lowering LDL cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Additional commonly prescribed medications target high blood pressure and blood sugar control. 
      • Angioplasty—Through a puncture in the groin, a catheter is weaved through a blood vessel to reach the affected artery where a small balloon inflates, reopening the artery and increasing blood flow. An angioplasty is a simple and safe solution for patients with PAD. It is also a much less invasive and lower-cost procedure.
      • Cutting Balloon—This procedure utilizes a conventional balloon catheter with micro-blades added to dilate the afflicted area. These micro-blades cut the surface of the plaque, diminishing the force required to dilate the vessel.
      • Bypass Surgery—With the use of a blood vessel from another location or a synthetic vessel, a medical professional creates a path around the blocked artery, allowing blood to bypass the problem artery.
      • Thrombolytic Therapy—A medical professional injects an artery blocked by a blood clot with a clot-dissolving drug to break up the blockage. 
      • Stents—Stents or metal mesh tubes are placed in the artery during a balloon angioplasty to provide ongoing support.
      • Balloon-Expanded—The stent or metal mesh tubes are expanded by use of a balloon.
      • Laser Atherectomy—The tip of a laser probe is used to vaporize small amounts of plaque.

      Directional Atherectomy—The flow channel is opened by removing plaque from the artery via a rotating cutting blade during a catheter procedure.

Peripheral Artery Disease Experts

Many people lose limbs each year due to peripheral artery blockage. Among those living with limb loss, the main cause is vascular disease (54%) – including diabetes and peripheral artery disease.

At Cardiovascular Institute of the South, we believe that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disability and save limbs and lives. Through the development of non-surgical treatments and the advancements of leading-edge technology, patients can be assured that each case is thoroughly reviewed, and all available treatment options are considered.


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