Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Treatment
Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease
If you are suffering from the effects of peripheral artery disease (PAD), we want you to know that there’s help available. PAD develops when plaque builds up in the arteries. Over time, peripheral artery disease can lead to painful leg symptoms, impact your ability to walk or climb stairs, and place you at increased risk for serious health conditions like heart attack, stroke, and amputation.
Fortunately, a range of effective PAD treatment options exist that can improve your situation. To determine which treatment approach is best for you, we recommend visiting a vascular doctor. At USA Vascular Centers, our board-certified vascular doctors can make personalized recommendations based on your medical history and the severity of your condition.
When it comes to peripheral artery disease treatment at USA Vascular Centers, we aim to:
- Reduce symptoms: PAD can cause leg pain and weakness, difficulty walking and climbing stairs, skin changes and non-healing sores, and erectile dysfunction.
- Improve mobility and quality of life: When you are unable to move around comfortably, it becomes challenging to perform daily activities and enjoy life to its fullest.
- Prevent dangerous health consequences: PAD can place you at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and limb amputation.
We specialize in providing minimally invasive treatment that can alleviate your symptoms, improve mobility, and get you back to normal life.
What Are the Treatment Options for PAD?
We understand that the prospect of developing a PAD treatment plan can be stressful. We want you to know that our doctors at USA Vascular Centers are not only top experts in the field, they are also compassionate individuals who care about the health and life quality of our patients.
There are three main approaches to PAD treatment:
- Lifestyle modifications: If you have PAD or are aiming to prevent it, a vascular doctor may encourage you to quit smoking; lower your high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels; follow a healthy eating plan; lose weight; and get moving.
- Medication: In addition to lifestyle changes, you may also be prescribed one or more medications to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, treat diabetes, prevent the formation of blood clots, and help reduce leg pain.
- Special procedures: If the blood flow in one of your limbs is completely or almost completely blocked, you may benefit from having a procedure in addition to medications and lifestyle changes. Procedures such as stent angioplasty can improve the blood circulation to your legs and your ability to walk, and may lessen the frequency and intensity of your pain.
What Is the Best Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease?
The best treatment for your peripheral artery disease depends on several factors, including disease severity and your medical history. When PAD is diagnosed early, lifestyle modifications and medications may be enough to meet our main treatment goals of alleviating symptoms, improving mobility, and reducing threat to life and limb.
PAD is a progressive disease that occurs in stages. The first stage is mild, or asymptomatic PAD, during which it is common for patients to experience no symptoms at all. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, about 20 to 50% of patients diagnosed with PAD are asymptomatic. If you have mild PAD, your doctor may suggest that you:
- Work with a trainer to develop a daily exercise program
- Join a medical weight-loss program to obtain a healthy BMI
- Discuss personalized dietary improvements with a dietician
- Focus on controlling high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
- Contact a tobacco cessation program to quit smoking
- Begin daily aspirin therapy
- Take other prescribed medications to improve blood circulation
The next stage is symptomatic PAD. As the disease progresses and arteries narrow, blood flow is restricted to the lower extremities, causing claudication. Claudication is leg pain that is triggered by physical activity, and ceases while at rest. However, most patients experience what is called atypical claudication, which is when the leg pain doesn’t consistently resolve with rest.
PAD that has progressed into the most severe stage is called critical limb ischemia (CLI). In patients with CLI, claudication has worsened, causing loss of mobility and increased pain during rest. Other symptoms of critical limb ischemia are leg ulcers, gangrene of the leg tissue, and pain during rest that lasts more than 14 days.
If your condition has progressed beyond the initial, asymptomatic stage, there are treatments available that can improve blood flow and alleviate symptoms. At USA Vascular Centers, we provide treatment for PAD using minimally invasive methods. Our non-surgical treatment options include:
- Angioplasty: A common procedure that uses a catheter to implant a small balloon into the affected artery. The balloon is then expanded, compressing the plaque to restore blood flow to the artery.
- Stent placement: Similar to angioplasty, this treatment places a small, mesh stent into the blocked artery. The stent is permanent: its job is to keep the artery open and prevent pieces of plaque from breaking off and causing another blockage.
- Atherectomy: A procedure that uses a rotating or laser catheter to shave off plaque, removing it from the artery walls.
How Long Does it Take to Recover?
Most patients recover from a minimally invasive treatment for PAD within one to two weeks. With angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy procedures, our board-certified vascular surgeons at USA Vascular Centers make an incision so small that stitches aren’t required. In addition, patients undergo local sedation instead of general anesthesia. This helps contribute to a shorter recovery time.
At USA Vascular Centers, our non-surgical peripheral artery disease treatments are performed in our state-of-the-art outpatient centers, accredited by the American Association for Ambulatory Healthcare (AAAHC). This certification means we meet and exceed stringent patient safety standards. It also qualifies us for Medicare and Medicaid certification.
Patients can expect to spend about two hours in our outpatient center from the beginning of their non-surgical treatment appointment to the end. The procedures themselves take about 30 to 45 minutes for our highly skilled surgeons to complete. You may begin to experience relief from PAD symptoms in the days, weeks, and months after your peripheral artery disease treatment.
Who Treats Peripheral Artery Disease?
Historically, treatment for PAD was limited to lifestyle modifications and medication for mild stage PAD and surgery for more severe stages. With medical advances, endovascular techniques and technologies have become widely available. Endovascular procedures are innovative, minimally invasive methods used to treat conditions that affect blood vessels, like PAD.
Doctors who treat PAD are typically called vascular surgeons. Vascular surgeons are trained in performing surgery and non-surgical, endovascular procedures. At USA Vascular Centers, our doctors who treat PAD are specialized in using minimally invasive techniques, which have advantages over surgery. Many of our doctors are also interventional radiologists, which means they are trained in the use of imaging technologies, like ultrasound, to diagnose and treat conditions.
How Will a Vascular Doctor Determine the Best PAD Treatment for Me?
Vascular doctors are experts in diagnosing and treating vascular diseases like PAD. They can assess a patient’s symptoms in several ways to help determine what type of treatment would serve a patient’s needs. If you visit our outpatient centers with classic PAD symptoms, our expert vascular doctors are available to perform several diagnostic tests.
An ankle-brachial index test is often a starting point. Your vascular doctor will measure the blood pressure in your ankle and in your arm and compare the two numbers to get your ankle-brachial index. A number below 1.0 can indicate peripheral artery disease.
Angiograms can provide more information. During an angiogram, your vascular doctor will insert a tiny catheter and inject contrast dye into your vascular system. With X-ray imaging, the doctor will pinpoint blockages in your arteries.
Vascular doctors may also use ultrasounds to help locate areas where plaque has built up in your vascular system. After thoroughly assessing your symptoms and determining where the blockages are, your vascular doctor may suggest angioplasty, stent placement, or atherectomy to widen the narrowed arterial passageways. If you’d like to know more about which PAD treatment options might work best for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified vascular doctors.
Guideline to Preparing for Your PAD Appointment
We encourage all of our patients to come prepared to each PAD appointment at USA Vascular Centers. Before your initial appointment or consultation, we ask that you bring standard documentation, such as your photo ID, insurance card, list of current medications, and list of any current or past medical conditions. This will help your care team give you safe, effective care. It’ll also help us set up communication with your insurance provider.
Your doctor will also want to know about your family’s medical history. Is there a history of cardiovascular disease, for example? What about diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease? Each of these conditions is a risk factor for PAD. In addition, your doctor may ask about your lifestyle habits. Smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle, and eating an unbalanced diet low in nutrients can all contribute to PAD. Our doctors are compassionate, and they will work with you to help address lifestyle habits that may be contributing to PAD.
Bring a list of the symptoms you’re currently experiencing to your appointment. Discuss them with your vascular doctor. If you think you may have difficulty remembering all of the symptoms during your visit, write them down on a piece of paper or on your phone. Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing the day of your appointment will help you be prepared for a physical exam and any other tests your vascular doctor wants to do.
Schedule Your Consultation With USA Vascular Today
No matter what stage of PAD you are experiencing, it’s crucial to work with experts who specialize in treating vascular conditions. The vascular doctors who treat PAD at USA Vascular Centers provide minimally invasive treatment options and support for your whole treatment journey.
From the initial consultation to creating an ongoing plan for your future well-being, we offer the expert care you deserve. Schedule online or give us a call at 888.773.2193 to visit a vascular doctor at one of our accredited centers across the country.