Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition caused when narrowed arteries decrease the amount of blood flow to your limbs. Some common symptoms are pain during walking, pain at rest and lower extremity wounds. Without treatment, PAD could result in amputation, which is why it’s important to see a doctor when you’re experiencing PAD symptoms.
Each person has symptoms that are unique to them, so everyone who sees a vascular surgeon for PAD will get an individualized approach and treatment plan. Vascular surgeons are doctors who specialize in arteries and veins.
Treatment options may include medical therapy or a surgical procedure. Vascular surgeons determine which is the best option for each patient to give them the most benefit with the least amount of risk. Their goal is to improve your circulation to keep you active.
There are many ways to treat PAD with non-surgical methods. This includes a heart-healthy lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, taking certain medications, doing supervised exercise therapy and performing good foot and skin care.
Some medications used to treat pain during walking have led to a doubling in patient walking distance. They work by providing more blood flow to your legs and feet. They also lower your cholesterol and decrease your chance of a heart attack, stroke or blood clot.
Supervised exercise therapy has led to longer pain-free walking distances when compared to certain procedures.
When medical management does not improve symptoms or if the patient's symptoms are severe, surgery is often recommended. If best for the patient, minimally-invasive procedures are an option and can get them back on their feet and at home the same day as the procedure.
Minimally-invasive surgical options include:
- Balloon angioplasty: using balloons to open the area of narrowing. This allows more blood flow to reach your legs and feet
- Stent placement: permanent scaffolding of the artery for it to remain open longer
- CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) angiogram: For patients with kidney problems, CO2 may be recommended to reduce injury to the kidney during angiograms. The patient can obtain an improvement in their pain without injury to their kidney function
- Atherectomy: removes plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) from the blood vessels
Occasionally, PAD is severe enough to need open surgery. Bypass surgery gives blood a different path around the blocked artery.
PAD can be serious, but it can be treated. Contact your doctor so they can help you understand which treatment option is best for you. Don't let PAD change your way of life!
September is PAD Awareness Month! According to the Cardiovascular Coalition, PAD affects approximately 18 million US citizens, and 160,000 to 180,000 of those patients are estimated to undergo limb amputation this year. Help us spread the word by sharing this article, and if you have PAD symptoms, schedule an appointment with an Ochsner vascular surgeon in New Orleans or on the West Bank today!