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- Peripheral vascular disease facts
- What is peripheral vascular disease?
- What is atherosclerosis?
- How does atherosclerosis cause disease?
- What are potential complications of peripheral artery disease?
- What are the other causes of peripheral vascular diseases?
- Who is at risk for peripheral artery disease?
- What are the symptoms and signs of peripheral artery disease?
- How is peripheral artery disease diagnosed?
- What are the treatments for peripheral artery disease?
- Lifestyle changes
- Supervised exercise
- Peripheral vascular disease medications
- Angioplasty for peripheral vascular disease
- Surgery for peripheral vascular disease
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Angioplasty for peripheral vascular disease
Angioplasty is a nonsurgical procedure that can widen a narrowed or blocked artery. A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the groin or arm and advanced to the area of narrowing. A tiny balloon on the tip of the catheter is then inflated to enlarge the narrowing in the artery. This procedure is also commonly performed to dilate narrowed areas in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
Sometimes the catheter technique is used to insert a stent (a cylindrical wire mesh tube) into the affected area of the artery to keep the artery open. In other cases, thrombolytic medications (medications that dissolve blood clots) may be delivered to the blocked area via a catheter.
Angioplasty does not require general anesthesia and may be performed by an interventional radiologist, cardiologist, or vascular surgeon. Usually, a local anesthetic at the area of catheter insertion and a mild sedative are given. Major complications of angioplasty are rare, but can occur. These include damage to the artery or blood clot formation, excessive bleeding from the catheter insertion site, and abrupt vessel closure (blockage of the treated area occurring within 24 hours of the procedure).
Despite these risks, the overall incidence of complications is low and the benefits of angioplasty (no general anesthesia, no surgical incision, and the ability to return to normal activities within a couple of days) outweigh its risks. Usually a one-night hospital stay is required when angioplasty is performed.
Angioplasty is indicated when a patient has claudication that limits his or her activities and does not respond to exercise, medications, and lifestyle measures. Most doctors also recommend angioplasty when disease is very severe and there is a focal, localized narrowing that is accessible via catheter. If a patient is too ill to have surgery and has severe ischemia (decreased oxygen) that threatens loss of a limb, angioplasty may also be attempted.
Some cases of peripheral artery disease may be more difficult to treat by angioplasty. For example, blockages in multiple small arteries of the legs or blockages in extremely small vessels may not be treatable by this method.