What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?
Peripheral Arterial Disease occurs when plaque, made of cholesterol and/or calcium, builds up in the arteries supplying blood to your extremities, narrowing them and reducing the flow of blood. This process is known as atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.”
PAD is a serious condition that affects one in every 20 Americans and should be diagnosed promptly by vascular specialists so they can reduce your risk as quickly as possible.
All patients with PAD are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke and some are at risk of losing a limb to amputation as a result of non-treatment. If arterial disease is caught early, it can be treated conservatively with lifestyle, diet, exercise and medication. Left untreated, however, the disease can progress to the point of causing symptoms such as:
- Pain, numbness or heaviness in your legs especially when walking or climbing stairs
- Burning pain in the toes and feet when at rest, or that disturbs your sleep
- Sores or wounds on your legs, feet and toes that fail to heal
- Color changes in your feet that turn the skin pale or blue
- Poor nail growth and/or decreased hair growth on legs and toes
- In men, erectile dysfunction, especially if you also have diabetes
In advanced cases of PAD, more extensive treatment might be necessary to keep the disease from progressing further.
How is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) treated?
At ECCO, we treat advanced cases of PAD with a number of specialized, minimally invasive arterial interventions. Depending on the case and its severity, this procedure may include:
- Balloon Angioplasty
- Stent Placement
These are usually performed as outpatient procedures in our clinic with sedation. The procedures usually take between one and four hours, depending on the complexity.
Why Talk To ECCO Medical?
Patients needing treatment for leg pain, calf pain, or leg cramps at night need look no further. ECCO Medical is the leading Colorado PAD treatment center, providing numerous PAD treatment options. Leg pain can be caused by clogged arteries in the legs and feet, also known as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). ECCO Medical provides new, cutting-edge treatment options for PAD.
What is Arteriogram with Intervention?
“Arterio” means artery and “Gram” means picture. Before we treat anything, we create maps of your arteries using a dye that is injected into your arteries and we view its path through your arteries with the help of X-ray. We can see where the arteries are going, what they’re feeding and any obstructions or abnormalities.
Once we determine a diagnosis and proper treatment path, a local anesthetic will be administered to numb your skin. We then place a needle into the artery in your groin (femoral artery) or wrist (radial artery) using ultrasound to guide our needle.
This needle is hollow so that we can thread a wire through the needle and into the artery. We then place a sheath into the artery which is a one-way valve that allows us to maintain temporary access into the artery without any blood loss.
From here we may perform:
- Balloon Angioplasty: This means to use a balloon to open a narrowing or blockage in an artery. This is performed with a specialized catheter with an elongated balloon or its tip that is then inflated.
- Atherectomy: This means to remove plaque buildup in the arteries and is most commonly done in the legs, but can also be done in the heart. This is performed with specialized catheters that have laser or grinding functionality.
- Stent Placement: If angioplasty or atherectomy aren’t successful in restoring flow through an artery, a stent, or a tube made of metal wire, is placed to keep the vessel open. This is a permanent implant.
These procedures are done with moderate sedation at our facility and recovery time is minimal. A closure device is used to seal your artery which decreases recovery time and can cause some bruising or soreness at the access site.
Am I a Good Candidate for PAD Treatment at ECCO?
The answer to this question depends on the advice of your recommending physician(s), and a thorough physical examination by ECCO’s doctors. To diagnose your condition and recommend the most appropriate treatment, we might use non-invasive imaging studies such as ultrasound of the arteries, Pulse Volume Recording or CT Angiography.
Is There Recovery Time?
Naturally, the amount of time required for recovery depends upon the type of treatment administered. However, most patients report minimal recovery time. After some procedures we recommend no heavy lifting for the first five days, but other than this restriction, you can resume your normal physical activity.
Additional Facts About Arterial Artery Disease
Peripheral arterial disease is MUCH more common than you think Some 1 in 20 Americans over 50 has PAD — that’s 8 to 12 million people. Worldwide, PAD affects over 200 million people, 6 times more than have HIV.
PAD is as serious and as potentially life-threatening as coronary artery disease (CAD). Blockages in the arteries of your legs are often the first signs of a major health problem. Patients often mistake fatigue and cramping leg pain symptoms as “normal signs of aging,” so the condition is seriously underreported. At the same time, the disease is often underdiagnosed by physicians who fail to check for it, even in patients who have other circulatory or cardiology problems.
Thus, PAD often exists “under the radar” and is not detected until it develops into critical limb ischemia and severe arterial blockages. This has resulted in a shocking 23% increase in PAD cases worldwide in the last decade.
What exactly is PAD?
Peripheral arterial disease occurs when your arteries become clogged with fatty deposits (plaque). Cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the arteries supplying blood to your extremities.
The plaque adheres to the arterial walls, narrowing them, reducing the flow of blood. This process is referred to as atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” If the plaque becomes inflamed, it can cause a blood clot, further narrowing the artery or completely blocking it.
Causes of PAD – factors that mean you’re at risk of developing it
- Age – PAD is most common in people over 50.
- If you smoke or used to smoke. A history of smoking gives you a 4X greater risk of developing PAD. This is the primary risk factor for PAD
- High blood pressure raises the risk of developing plaque, and thus PAD.
- High blood cholesterol also contributes to the formation of plaque.
- If you have diabetes, 1 in 3 diabetics are likely to develop PAD.
- Having a personal history of heart attack, Stroke, or other vascular disease gives you a 1 in 3 chance of also having PAD.
- Family history of PAD. If multiple family members have had PAD, you are almost twice as likely to get it as someone without such a history. The risk is even higher if their PAD developed before they were 68.
- Men and women are equally at risk for PAD, but African Americans are more than twice as likely to develop PAD as other races.
The health risks of having PAD
Untreated PAD can lead to difficulty walking, which has been directly linked to life expectancy. PAD also significantly increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack (TIA). Recent studies have shown that:
- 60% of patients with PAD will develop ischemic heart disease and 30% will develop cerebrovascular disease;
- Within 5 years of diagnosis, 10%–15% of PAD patients with intermittent claudication (cramping leg pain) will die from cardiovascular disease;
- Deaths per year were higher among patients with PAD than patients who had suffered a heart attack, and only slightly lower than in patients who had suffered a stroke. Patients with PAD who also had diabetes were at the highest risk of death and other adverse medical events.
Finally, in its most severe stages, PAD can reduce circulation to your extremities so much that it results in gangrene, which can lead to leg or foot amputation. PAD is the leading cause of lower limb amputation.
Learn more – Five Facts About Peripheral Arterial Disease
How Do You Treat Chronic Leg Pain?
If you have chronic leg pain, physical therapy may be the most recommended, and best, option for you. However, it’s always a good idea to look for vascular causes of leg pain and cramps such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).