Learning that you or a loved one has any disease can be frightening and anxiety-inducing. If you’ve just discovered that you have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition characterized by decreased blood flow to the lower extremities due to plaque buildup, all sorts of questions can arise. You may wonder, “What is the life expectancy of a person with PAD?”
While many people have heard of coronary artery disease, knowledge of PAD is less common. Finding out the life expectancy of people with PAD disease can be an important first step in seeking appropriate treatment for PAD. At USA Vascular Centers, PAD treatment is our area of expertise. Our board-certified vascular doctors are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating PAD, all from the comfort of our leading-edge outpatient centers.
For more guidance on the next steps you can take after receiving a PAD diagnosis, reach out to the team at USA Vascular Centers.
How Serious is a PAD Diagnosis?
PAD can be a life-threatening disease if left untreated, so it’s important to take a PAD diagnosis seriously. There are two ways that PAD can decrease life expectancy: by raising the likelihood of unhealthy arteries elsewhere in the body and by increasing the risk of amputation.
PAD and Artery Health
When you have PAD, the arteries leading to your legs are clogged. This accumulation of plaque is caused by numerous factors, including an excess of cholesterol and fat deposits in the body. If the arteries leading to your legs have narrowed because of plaque, it is highly likely that arteries elsewhere in your body—such as those leading to the brain and heart. This puts people with PAD at higher risk of developing life-threatening conditions in the years after diagnosis.
As many as 20% of patients with undiagnosed and/or untreated PAD will experience a stroke or heart attack, and up to one-third will be deceased, within five years after the first stages of PAD develop. This is why a diagnosis of PAD can be helpful. By taking PAD itself as a warning sign that your entire vascular system may need extra monitoring, you may be able to prevent complications that decrease PAD life expectancy and life expectancy in general.
Knowing the signs of PAD can help you catch it early and begin a treatment plan. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, heredity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and being over the age of 50 are all PAD risk factors. Signs of PAD include cramping in the legs while walking or climbing stairs, patchy or slow leg hair growth, and wounds that take months to heal or don’t heal at all.
If you have any PAD risk factors or signs of PAD, see a board-certified vascular doctor as soon as possible. At USA Vascular Centers, our vascular doctors can diagnose PAD quickly and accurately.
How Often Does PAD Lead to Amputation?
PAD can lead to amputation any time it progresses to the final stage, wherein blood flow to the foot or leg is completely cut off due to plaque buildup. This is called acute limb ischemia.
Acute limb ischemia often causes tissue death, or gangrene, which then requires amputation as a life-saving measure in the short term. However, amputation significantly decreases PAD disease life expectancy.3
While amputations are now less common overall in the United States than they once were, the number of amputations necessitated by PAD has stayed the same or even increased for some populations.3 Once a person experiences PAD amputation, life expectancy with PAD disease drops.
Studies have shown that within five years of undergoing a major amputation, such as an amputation that removes anything above the ankle, 33% of amputation patients will pass away within one year, and 65% will be deceased within four years. With minor amputations, defined as the removal of any body part below the ankle, the death rate was 18% at one year and 45% at four years.
The good news here is that amputation can often be avoided. Lifestyle changes and PAD treatment can dramatically improve the life expectancy of a person with PAD.
The experts at USA Vascular Centers diagnose PAD in two ways: conducting an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test or performing an angiogram. During an ankle-brachial index test, your doctor measures the blood pressure in your legs and arms and compares the two numbers. An angiogram is a minimally invasive procedure where your physician injects contrast dye into your vascular system and uses X-ray imaging to identify blockages.
Diagnosing PAD is the first step toward improving the life expectancy of a person with PAD.
Once you’ve got a PAD diagnosis, your doctor can discuss lifestyle changes and treatment options with you.
How is PAD Treated?
PAD can be treated with minimally invasive procedures that remove or compress plaque in artery walls. Our trusted vascular surgeons perform three minimally invasive procedures at USA Vascular Centers: angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy.
In an angioplasty, your doctor will guide a small, balloon-tipped catheter into your vascular system and inflate the balloon at blockage points. This compresses the plaque against the artery walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. Stent placement is similar, but with the added step of placing a mesh stent inside the blocked area. An atherectomy involves removing plaque with a laser or tiny blade before safely removing it from the body.
Lifestyle changes can be part of a treatment plan, too, and can help improve life expectancy with peripheral artery disease. Changes that can positively impact arterial health include quitting smoking, beginning an exercise routine, managing diabetes, and eating a balanced diet. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure or to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers
At USA Vascular Centers, you can receive PAD treatment in one of our state-of-the-art outpatient centers. Much of the life expectancy with PAD disease depends on treatment and management of the condition, so we encourage you to come in and see us soon if you have any concerns about PAD.
We look forward to helping you increase your PAD life expectancy and avoid some of the more serious complications that can come with PAD. Call us today at 888.773.2193 or schedule a consultation online.
- “Peripheral Arterial Disease | PAD.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed July 14, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/peripheralarterialdisease.html.
- “Peripheral Artery Disease Can Signal Cardiovascular Trouble for Heart, Brain and Legs – Mayo Clinic News Network.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, July 7, 2022. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/peripheral-artery-disease-can-signal-cardiovascular-trouble-for-heart-brain-and-legs/.
- Barnes, J. Aaron, J. Aaron Barnes Correspondence to: J. Aaron Barnes, Mark A. Eid, Mark A. Eid From the Heart and Vascular Center, Mark A. Creager, Mark A. Creager From the Heart and Vascular Center, Philip P. Goodney, Philip P. Goodney From the Heart and Vascular Center, For Sources of Funding and Disclosures, and Et Al. “Epidemiology and Risk of Amputation in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus and Peripheral Artery Disease.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, June 25, 2020. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/ATVBAHA.120.314595.
- “Survival and Factors Predicting Mortality after Major and Minor Lower …” Accessed July 15, 2022. https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001355.