Peripheral artery disease (PAD) slowly develops over the years, often reaching an advanced stage without causing symptoms. The skilled cardiologists at HeartPlace have extensive experience treating PAD, from lifestyle changes and medications to minimally invasive procedures. But they prefer to help patients prevent the disease by performing a risk assessment and screening. If you need treatment for PAD or would like to take preventive steps, call one of the 30 HeartPlace locations across North Texas or schedule an appointment online today.
PAD begins when cholesterol builds up in the wall of an artery, a condition called atherosclerosis. Without treatment, atherosclerosis progressively enlarges, and the artery wall hardens. The larger the plaque gets, the more it interferes with blood flow through the artery.
You can develop PAD in any of the arteries that carry blood through your body. The disease has different names based on its location. For example:
Atherosclerosis can also lead to an aortic aneurysm – a condition that occurs when atherosclerosis creates a vulnerable spot in the aortic wall. As blood pushes into the weak area, a bulge develops in the artery wall.
In severe cases, the weakened aortic wall tears. This condition, called an aortic dissection, is a medical emergency because it results in significant internal bleeding.
Most patients don’t have symptoms until the plaque gets large enough to block a significant amount of blood flow. Then you experience:
Advanced PAD blocks so much blood that the tissues served by the affected artery don’t get enough oxygen. Mild ischemia (lack of oxygen) leads to non-healing ulcers and infections. In severe cases such as critical limb ischemia, tissues die and gangrene develops.
Mesenteric ischemia occurs when the arteries carrying blood to your small intestine become blocked. PAD often causes this condition, but it can also develop from blood clots. Without treatment, mesenteric ischemia causes a system-wide infection (sepsis), permanent intestinal damage, and tissue death.
Chronic total occlusion is a complete or nearly complete blockage of one or more of your coronary arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart. This condition develops from atherosclerotic plaque.
When your provider diagnoses PAD early, changing your diet, following an exercise routine, and losing weight may be enough to stop the disease from progressing. Your provider may prescribe medications to treat the conditions contributing to PAD, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and uncontrolled high blood sugar.
After PAD reaches an advanced stage, your HeartPlace provider restores normal circulation with a minimally invasive procedure to eliminate the blockage, including:
Your provider inserts a catheter into a blood vessel and guides the device to the blockage. Then they restore blood flow by inflating a balloon that pushes the plaque back against the artery wall.
During angioplasty, your provider may implant a stent. The small mesh tube stays in the artery and holds it open.
If the plaque is too hard for angioplasty, your provider performs an atherectomy. For this procedure, a specially equipped catheter grinds away or cuts out the plaque.
If a blood clot causes your mesenteric ischemia or pulmonary hypertension, your provider uses medication to dissolve the clot. You may also need to take anticoagulants.
An aortic aneurysm or mesenteric ischemia may require surgery to bypass the blockage.
To learn more about peripheral artery disease, call HeartPlace or book an appointment online today.