written by

Annie Collum, BSN, RN

Annie Collum, BSN, RN is the RIA Senior Manager, Physician Liaison in Denver, Colorado

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June 1, 2021, ,

What is peripheral arterial disease?

What is peripheral arterial disease?

The narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs is a disease process known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD can happen in any blood vessel, but it is more common in the legs than the arms. It is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis.

What symptoms are associated with peripheral arterial disease?

The primary symptom of PAD is claudication — cramping/pain associated with walking/exercise

Other symptoms are:

• Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising

Lower extremity wounds that won’t heal or heal very slowly

• Gangrene, or dead tissue 

• Decreased temperature of your lower leg or foot 

• Poor toenail growth or decreased hair growth on the legs 

• Erectile dysfunction, especially in men with diabetes

What testing/imaging is done to diagnose claudication?

Ankle-brachial index, a comparison of blood pressure in your ankles with the blood pressure in your arms

Computerized tomography (CT) angiography to look for narrowed blood vessels

Doppler ultrasound to see the flow of blood

Exercise testing to determine the maximum distance you can walk or the maximum exertion without pain

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) angiography to look for narrowed blood vessels

Pulse measurement in your palms or feet to assess blood flow to the entire limb

Segmental blood pressure measurement, a series of blood pressure measurements at different areas on your arm or leg to help determine the amount and location of arterial damage

What intervention/treatment can be performed for claudication?

There are medication and surgical options, but at RIA Endovascular, we prefer to treat peripheral arterial disease with angiography or angiogram. This is a procedure to improve blood flow by widening a narrowed artery. An interventional radiologist guides a small tube through your blood vessels to deliver an inflatable balloon that expands the artery. Once the artery is widened, your doctor may place a small metal or plastic mesh tube (stent) in the artery to keep it open.

This is what Nishant Patel, MD, has to say about treating patients who suffer from peripheral arterial disease:

“I love treating PAD patients because of both the immediate and long-term results from the procedure. You can feel and hear the difference in pulses in the foot after the procedure. When I see these patients in follow-up, and I hear they’ve walked or run for the first time in years, or that their wounds are healing, it is incredibly rewarding!”

(photo: Nishant Patel, MD, during procedure)