Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a circulatory issue wherein narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to the limbs. This is more common in the lower legs as the symptoms may be more noticeable. Essentially, the limbs do not receive enough blood to keep up with the demands of day to day use resulting in pain when walking. However, the condition can also reduce blood flow to the heart and brain. PAD is usually a sign of the buildup of fatty deposits or plaque in the arteries. Common symptoms include:
Peripheral arterial disease can be surgically treated with bypass surgery or angioplasty. Bypass surgery is an open surgical procedure where a piece of healthy blood vessel is attached to either side of the blocked peripheral artery, creating a new path for blood to follow, effectively bypassing the blockage. However, angioplasty is an endovascular procedure, and while still serious surgery, is much less invasive to the patient. Angioplasty is a procedure where a catheter is threaded through the blood vessel to the blockage or narrowed artery. Then a small balloon on the tip of the catheter is inflated to reopen the artery by flattening the blockage to the arterial walls and stretching the artery to allow increased blood flow. Sometimes the surgeon will install a stent, a small mesh tube, which acts like scaffolding in the artery to hold it open. If the blockage is caused by a clot, the doctor may utilize thrombolytic therapy, where a clot dissolving drug is injected into the artery near the blockage to break up the clot.
Following surgery to repair PAD the patient will be sent to recovery for monitoring for a length of time appropriate to the surgery. Less invasive endovascular procedures require less time. The patient will be released and sent home with specific instructions for after care from the surgeon. The advice will be specific to the patient but generally follows the same principles including:
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