Bypassing the Problem
- Posted on: Apr 15 2019
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) refers to blockage or narrowing of the arteries in the legs and can potentially be a serious problem. Over time, arteries may harden and narrow due to the effects of smoking, accumulating cholesterol, or from long-standing diabetes. When narrowed blood vessels restrict blood flow enough, symptoms develop.
What are the signs I have lower extremity arterial disease?
Symptoms of PAD vary depending on the severity and location of the blockage. The most common symptom patients’ feel is aching or cramping pain the calves when walking. This is called claudication and is an indication that the muscles are not getting enough blood flow. Aching and cramping may also occur in the thighs or buttocks if the blockage is higher in the legs. Claudication can be fairly mild if PAD is not severe, but occasionally blocked arteries limit blood flow so much that pain develops after very short distances, or even at rest.
When PAD is very severe, minor wounds may heal very slowly, or not at all. This is an urgent situation which should be evaluated by a vascular surgeon as soon as possible.
While pain with walking is the most common symptom of PAD, there are several other clues we look for to diagnose the problem. Patients may also notice:
- Decreased hair growth on the legs and toes
- Paleness of the leg or foot when elevated
- Inability to feel a pulse in the feet
- Blue/red discoloration of the foot when hanging downward
- Coolness of the leg or foot
- A sore on the foot that won’t heal
How We Diagnose the Problem
After we discuss your symptoms and perform a physical exam, the most common test vascular surgeons use to confirm the presence of PAD is an Ankle-Brachial Index, or ABI exam. This test is a quick and painless evaluation of the blood pressure in your legs and toes. Depending on the results, a more specialized ultrasound looking at blood flow may be needed. At Nevada Vein and Vascular, your ultrasound will be performed by certified vascular technicians with years of experience, and your study will be read here by our physicians.
How Is PAD Treated?
We tailor our treatment to the goals and needs of each patient and understand that everyone experiences PAD differently. In general, there are three main ways PAD is treated although sometimes a combination of options is needed.
Conservative management – For mild symptoms, you may not need any surgery at all. We may recommend medication and a walking program which, for many people, improves their symptoms significantly.
Minimally invasive techniques – Drs. Albright, Dixon, and Levin are experts in minimally-invasive (endovascular) surgery for PAD. Using the latest in endovascular technology, they are frequently able to open even the most severe blockages to relieve pain and get you back on your feet with no major incision at all. Many patients can be treated on an out-patient basis and go home the same day.
Open Surgery – Sometimes traditional surgery is needed to re-route blood flow around a blocked artery. Our physicians are board-certified experts in vascular surgery and may recommend a bypass using either a vein from the leg or other specialized synthetic material.
If you are experiencing symptoms related to PAD, or any other vascular problem, call Drs. Albright, Dixon, and Levin at Nevada Vein and Vascular, (775) 323-3000, and set up a consultation.
Posted in: Peripheral Bypass Surgery