Dr. Handley Discusses Signs, Symptoms and Treatments for Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD, is a common, but serious disease that occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This build-up, called plaque, can narrow arteries and reduce or block blood flow. PAD is typically seen in the legs, but can also be present in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys and stomach. Innovations in minimally invasive surgery by interventional radiologists aim to treat more serious forms of this disease that will significantly improve the outcomes by halting or slowing its progress.
Symptoms of PAD can range from mild to serious and include:
- A slower walking pace
- Legs that tire easily when walking
- Cramping in calves and thighs when walking
- Skin that is cool with purple or red discoloration
- Cramping of legs while lying down which improves when standing (rest pain)
- Non-healing sores on legs, feet or toes
- Severe pain in arms and legs
Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatment
While PAD can occasionally be treated by lifestyle changes and medication, surgical intervention by highly skilled interventional radiologists using minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty and stenting, are used to successfully treat advanced forms of this disease.
As minimally invasive procedures, angioplasty and stenting are generally low risk procedures that result in significantly improved outcomes. In addition, these procedures are performed in an outpatient setting, require mild sedation and permit patients to return to their daily routines quickly with an improved quality of life.
Performed as a minimally invasive procedure by an interventional radiologist, angioplasty helps to restore blood flow through a narrowed or blocked artery. The procedure is performed in a dedicated vascular x-ray imaging suite so that the radiologist can view the placement of specialized instruments. During the procedure, the patient is mildly sedated and a small incision is made. Using x-ray guidance, the interventional radiologist inserts a catheter with a special balloon at the tip directly into the blocked artery. The catheter is then maneuvered through the artery to where the blockage is located. Once it is properly positioned, the balloon is inflated to compress the plaque outward against the artery wall causing it to widen, resulting in restored blood flow.
Occasionally during an angioplastic procedure, the interventional radiologist may determine that a stent is needed to help keep the artery open after the procedure. The stent, a small mesh tube, is placed directly into the artery through the catheter and, once properly placed, exerts an outward pressure on the walls of the artery where the plaque was compressed by the balloon catheter. The stent helps to keep the artery open after the procedure is finished. In certain situations, stents that are coated with medicine may be used to help prevent future blockages.