Peripheral vascular disease treatment — Denver Heart

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to a blood circulation problem that causes blood vessels outside of the heart to become narrow, blocked or spasm. The most common form of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is peripheral artery disease (PAD).

PAD is a circulatory condition in which arteries that have become narrow reduce the flood of blood to your limbs. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of all amputations are connected to PVD. But with prompt and proper treatment, these can be prevented.

Also known as peripheral arterial disease, PAD occurs when your limbs don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with your body’s needs.

PAD typically occurs in the lower extremities, especially the legs. The symptoms of PAD include:

  • Cramping in the leg, hip or thigh muscles, particularly after walking or climbing stairs
  • Legs feel numb, weak or cramped
  • The leg or feet on one side feel cold, compared to the other side
  • Toes, feet or legs have sores that won’t heal

These symptoms might subside after a period of rest, but then return when someone starts walking or climbing stairs again.

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease (PAD)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 8 million Americans have PAD. An estimated 12 to 20 percent of adults age 60 and older have this condition.

The risk for PAD increases with age. Other risk factors for peripheral artery disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Atherosclerosis (fatty deposits than can clog arteries)
  • Family history of heart disease

Preventing PAD and other peripheral vascular diseases

The first step in treating PAD is prevention. Only one-quarter of the population is aware of PAD. This condition could result in a person developing coronary artery disease (which can lead to a heart attack) or cerebrovascular disease (which could lead to stroke).

Steps to prevent PAD include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting enough physical activity and exercise
  • Managing or controlling other health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Taking aspirin or other antiplatelet medications

Diagnosing peripheral artery disease

If a patient is displaying the symptoms of PAD, a physician might recommend an ankle-brachial index (ABI), a test that measures the blood pressure in the ankles and compares it to the blood pressure in the arms (at rest and following exercise).

Additionally, a patient may undergo an imaging test or ultrasound, which uses sound waves to produce images of arteries or veins in the body. These diagnostic tests include a Carotid Artery Ultrasound, a Renal Artery Ultrasound, a Venous Ultrasound, and an Arterial Ultrasound.

Treating and managing PAD

Typically, treating PAD involves managing or reducing one’s symptoms of the condition, such as decreasing or eliminating leg pain, as well as stopping the development of atherosclerosis, which can in turn lead to a heart attack or stroke.

In addition to diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, treatment options for PAD include:

  • Medication – Taking drugs such as a high blood pressure medication, cholesterol medications, or medication to prevent blood clots.
  • Peripheral angioplasty – A procedure that opens the blocked arteries and restores normal blood flow to legs using a balloon to dilate the artery.
  • Aortic stenting – Designed to improve blood flow to the legs, a stent is metal scaffolding that stays in the body permanently.
  • Bypass surgery – A procedure where a vascular surgeon utilizes a vein from the patient or an artificial vein to send blood flow around the area of blockage, often when it cannot be appropriately addressed with less invasive procedures.

Atherectomy to treat PVD

Atherectomy is a procedure that can be done with minimally invasive techniques. It allows us to use a tiny tool to remove plaque from the affected blood vessel. We offer several types of atherectomy, including:

  • Mechanical atherectomy – A procedure where plaque is shaved or cut out.
  • Rotational atherectomy – A tiny revolving instrument gently breaks apart the blockage into tiny pieces that can pass safely through the vein.
  • Peripheral laser atherectomy – A laser atherectomy is a newer procedure that involves inserting a catheter that emits a high energy light (laser) to vaporize blockages in the artery.

Atherectomy for below the knee (BTK) PVD

As a leader in PVD treatment, Denver Heart provides atherectomy for blockages below the knee (BTK). Often surgeons do not provide this type of treatment for BTK blockages because they are hard to access. Our highly specialized and experienced surgeon and support team are skilled in treating even intricate and hard-to-reach vessels.

A leader in the treatment of heart disease

Cardiac specialists at Denver Heart utilize the most innovative, state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart disease and heart-related conditions. Prevention is key in stopping the progression of cardiovascular disease. Our cardiologists provide patients with expert-level care in an individualized treatment setting.