Just 20 percent of the 10 million Americans affected by peripheral
vascular disease (PVD) are diagnosed, largely because the condition is
often overlooked as something you have to live with or a sign of aging.
The most common sign of PVD is leg pain while walking or exercising that
stops when the activity stops. Called claudication, this pain is not
something that many people recognize as a marker of potentially more
extensive arterial disease.
In reality, PVD is a serious condition that slowly restricts blood flow
to the legs and other areas of the body when the arteries become
clogged. Serious complications can result wherever PVD occurs:
The inability of blood to reach leg muscles produces pain which
may eventually hobble sufferers or result in amputation due to
diminished blood flow
Blocked arteries to the kidneys can cause uncontrolled high
Narrow carotid arteries to the brain raise the risk of stroke
A clogged artery that supplies blood to the arm and back of the
brain can result in dizziness, blurred vision, and difficulty
Most people associate atherosclerosis with clogged arteries to the
heart, but the disease can be much more diffuse and cause a variety of
problems. Fortunately, Main Line Health interventional radiologists can
offer minimally invasive treatments in most cases to relieve the
Combating PVD: Lifestyle Changes and Minimally Invasive Treatments
The first line of defense against PVD attacks the underlying
atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes—diet, exercise and smoking
cessation—along with medication, if necessary, can lower cholesterol
levels, decrease blood pressure, and control diabetes, all factors in
the progression of PVD.
Major surgery is sometimes required to remove blockages from arteries or
to bypass the clogged area. These procedures are performed by vascular
surgeons. In many cases, however, interventional radiologists can open
blocked or narrowed blood vessels without major surgery using the latest
non-surgical, outpatient procedures.
Angioplasty: In this technique, the physician
threads a balloon-tipped catheter into the blocked artery and
inflates the balloon to open the clogged vessel and allow the
blood to flow where it is needed.
Stenting: The insertion of a stent in the
affected artery, usually occurs with angioplasty to keep the
blood vessel propped open and to prevent it from re-narrowing.
If you are experiencing leg pain, a simple test called the ankle
brachial index (ABI) can detect whether you have PVD. Your physician
measures the blood pressure in your arm and in your ankle and compares
the ratio, which should be about the same or slightly higher in the
ankle. If necessary, other noninvasive tests—an ultrasound of the legs,
a CT scan, or MRI angiography—may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Taken together, these minimally invasive procedures for PVD provide
patients with effective treatments that can be performed with local
anesthesia under imaging guidance, are faster than surgery, and avoid
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.