What is claudication?

When there is too little blood flow to muscles during exercise people experience pain called claudication. Most often this pain occurs in the legs after walking at a certain pace and for a certain amount of time. The length of time varies depending on the severity of the condition.

This condition is sometimes referred to as intermittent claudication because the pain usually isn’t constant. It begins during exercise and ends with rest. As claudication worsens, however, the pain may progress and occur during rest.

Is there a disease associated with claudication?

A narrowing of arteries in the limbs that restricts blood flow is known as peripheral arterial disease. The pain known as claudication is a symptom of peripheral arterial disease.

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?

Historically treatment of arterial blockages involved surgical bypass with general anesthesia and prolonged recovery. With modern techniques and devices the vast majority of these cases can now be done in a minimally invasive manner as an outpatient with sedation. The procedure is called 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.

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