Peripheral Arterial Disease
What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a condition where plaque collects in the arteries of the arms, legs or other organs. As the plaque enlarges, it narrows the artery and reduces the circulation of blood through the area of the body that gets its blood from the artery.
The presence of PAD not only indicates the presence of narrowed arteries of the legs and arms, but also in the arteries of the heart (coronary heart disease). Patients with PAD have an increased risk of death from heart attacks. This makes the diagnosis of PAD a serious medical condition.
What are risk factors?
- Age greater than 50
- Family history of stroke or heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
Right: Artery “Y” section with cutaway portions shows build-up of cholesterol deposits in several locations
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
About half of patients with PAD experience no symptoms. Symptoms depend on which artery is narrowed, and the most common symptoms include fatigue, or aching of the leg muscles.
Diagnosis is based on the patient's symptoms, but made include special testing. Some of the tests that help diagnosis PAD include Ankle-brachial Index, Doppler ultrasound, MR angiogram, CT angiogram and conventional angiogram.
Since the presence of PAD implies coronary heart disease, an essential component of treatment involves aggressive treatment of risk factors, smoking cessation, and the use of antiplatelet medications, such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix). Surgical Bypass and Angioplasty and Stenting are the more invasive forms of treatment.