Peripheral Arterial Disease
The peripheral arteries supply blood to areas of the body outside the heart and lungs. These arteries carry blood to the head and neck, arms and hands, legs and feet, and pelvis and abdomen. Blockage in these arteries may cause a condition called peripheral arterial disease. Left untreated, PAD can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Testing and Diagnosis
Several tests can help doctors diagnose PAD. Blood work can detect conditions related to PAD such as elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar that increase the risk of developing PAD. The doctor may compare blood pressure readings from the arm and the ankle to look for signs of PAD. Ultrasound can detect blockages and show blood flowing through the vessels. The doctor may use another type of diagnostic imaging called peripheral angiography to get a clear view of peripheral arteries.
Peripheral angiography is usually performed in a cardiovascular services lab, or catheterization ("cath") lab. This test uses x-ray, MRI, or computerized tomography to detect narrowed arteries, and blockages, and observe blood flow. First, a nurse starts an IV to administer fluids and medication. Then the doctor inserts a catheter into the artery and injects a contrast dye into the catheter. The dye makes the blood vessels more visible.
After the Test
Recovering from peripheral angiography takes a few hours for the sedation of anesthesia to wear off. The injection site must be bandaged, and the wound monitored for bleeding and swelling while the patient refrains from moving the leg where the catheter was inserted.
At-home care includes drinking plenty of fluids and allowing the incision to heal with limited activity for a few days. Call the doctor if you observe signs of swelling, pus, drainage, or bruising in the wound area. Numbness or coldness in the limb should also be reported right away.
If detected in the early stages, conservative treatment of PAD begins with lifestyle changes such as improving dietary choices, implementing an exercise program, and quitting smoking. Medication may be prescribed to lower blood pressure or cholesterol, prevent blood clots, lower blood sugar, thin the blood or improve blood flow.
PAD treatment may require a surgical procedure to open blocked arteries. Angioplasty can restore blood flow to a blocked peripheral artery by widening the vessel with a tiny inflated balloon. A wire stent is inserted to keep the peripheral artery open. This cardiovascular procedure is performed in the cath lab.
Signs of PAD
If you experience signs of PAD such as reduced blood flow to the hands or feet, difficulty healing wounds in your extremities, or pain when walking, talk to your doctor about getting tested for PAD. If you smoke or eat a lot of saturated fats, you may be at a higher risk of developing peripheral arterial disease.
For more information, contact a company such as Desert Cardiovascular Consultants.