About Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease
Atherosclerosis is a narrowing or blockage of your arteries -- vessels that bring blood to your major organ systems and your limbs. This narrowing is caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances on the inner walls of your blood vessels, which prevents your blood from flowing normally. Often, atherosclerosis has no symptoms. It can lead to heart attack, stroke, and amputation.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is atherosclerosis in arteries in the legs. PAD may cause aching, pain, or numbness in the leg muscles when you walk or climb stairs. This is called claudication; it happens when the muscles that are performing the work don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. A more severe manifestation of PAD is chronic limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI). CLTI causes foot wounds or ulcers and leg pain.
Tests for Peripheral Artery Disease
Our specialists use advanced screening to identify PAD at every stage. All of these tests are simple and painless, and they usually take about 30 to 60 minutes.
Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI)
An ABI helps doctors determine whether your legs are affected by PAD. The blood pressure in your ankle is measured and compared to the blood pressure in your arm. Meanwhile, an ultrasound device listens to and compares the flow of blood in both areas.
This test uses sound waves to measure the speed of blood flow in your arteries and veins. It also generates images that help determine where blood flow is restricted.
CT and MRI
Advanced CT and MRI imaging helps assess damage to your blood vessels. High-resolution images combined with angiography, which uses a contrast dye injected into your arm, can help doctors more clearly identify narrowed areas in your arteries.
Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment
To help you make healthy changes, we offer services like cardiac disease prevention and tobacco cessation. Our caring and committed professionals can help you lose weight, stop smoking, start exercising, and lower your blood pressure. We monitor your progress, help you overcome symptoms such as leg pain, and help you work toward a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Our providers may suggest medications that improve blood flow, control symptoms, and slow the progression of peripheral artery disease.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to your narrowed artery. Contrast dye can be injected through the catheter to identify any blockages. Then, your doctors may use one or more of the following techniques to treat them.
- Balloon angioplasty: A small balloon is inflated within the artery to open any blockages.
- Stenting: A tiny, tube-shaped device called a stent is inserted into the artery and left there to hold the artery open. Some stents are coated with a medicine that helps prevent blood clots from forming in the artery.
- Atherectomy: A device gently scrapes away fatty deposits.
Duke is one of the few centers in the southeast that can combine minimally invasive interventions and traditional surgery to open your clogged arteries and improve blood flow. Your team will determine the right approach for you based on your medical condition, your anatomy, and the size and shape of your arteries. We customize your care with the goal of giving you the best possible outcome with the lowest risk of complications and the easiest recovery.
Bypass Graft Surgery
If you have severe peripheral artery disease or are at risk for amputation, surgeons may use a vein from another part of your body to create a new path for blood flow that bypasses the blocked artery.