Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is not curable, but is treatable, and often without major surgery. The best method of treatment depends on the patient and the severity of the disease. The following treatment options are the most common options for patients that are suffering from PAD.
The lifestyle modifications are typically prescribed to all patients with Peripheral Artery Disease. In some cases, making these modifications are all a patient needs to see improvements to their condition. However, some patients may still require a procedure. After a procedure, the patient should also adjust their lifestyle to prevent a recurrence.
All patients with PAD are advised to:
- Maintain a healthy, low-sodium diet
- Take aspirin, as directed by your physician
- Consistently take blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol medication(s) as prescribed
- Stop smoking
- Begin a structured walking program, if possible
Angiogram & Endovascular Intervention
If your symptoms cannot be managed with these lifestyle changes alone, the next step is to get an angiogram with endovascular interventions. An angiogram is performed by inserting a thin tube, called a catheter, into an artery in your leg. A contrast dye is then added through the catheter to take x-rays of the blood vessels. Then, the doctor will be able to see where the blood is flowing perfectly and where there are blockages disrupting the flow of blood.
What can vary during an angiogram is which minimally-invasive approach the doctor uses to treat blockages. Your provider will make this decision based on the location, size, and the number of blockages found while performing the angiogram. The types of treatments your doctor may perform during an angiogram are the following:
- Atherectomy: Physician “debulks” or removes plaque from artery walls
- Angioplasty: A tiny balloon is inflated in the blocked area, flattening the plaque, making space for blood to flow through again, and then the balloon is removed.
- Stent placement: A small, expandable, mesh-like tube is expanded in the artery, where it remains to keep it open.
These minimally-invasive treatment options have been shown to be safer, yet equally as effective as the next, more invasive option, which is open surgery. 1
Peripheral Artery Bypass
Occasionally, the minimally-invasive endovascular options described above must be repeated to keep the artery open for strong circulation. If for any reason these options are not providing long-lasting relief, an open surgery called “peripheral bypass surgery” may be performed. In this procedure, the surgeon will use either a man-made graft to act as a new blood vessel or take a healthy vein from your body to use.
Whereas the options above clear out existing arteries for blood to flow through, in this option, the new blood vessel is attached to direct blood around the blockage. The blocked artery stays in your body, but no longer helps with circulating blood.
Which Treatment Option is Best?
It’s best to leave that decision to the experts. Speak with your doctor to discuss your options. It is most beneficial to get peripheral artery disease diagnosed early to increase the likelihood that the treatment is less invasive. If the less invasive treatment options do not provide relief it may be beneficial to ask your doctor to refer you to a vascular specialist. Specialists have a deep understanding of specific conditions and have helped many people suffering from the same condition.