Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the blockage of peripheral arteries outside your heart, such as those in the abdomen, pelvis, neck or limbs, that decreases artery circulation. This is usually develops silently, however, some patients experience PAD as a sudden blockage in their legs and feet — similar to a heart attack with a blockage in their heart or a “brain attack” (stroke) with a blockage in your brain.

The blockage in the limbs occurs over time when there is a build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. While PAD does take time to develop, once symptoms occur, it is essential to act immediately before your limbs are starved of oxygen. Symptoms occur as pain and numbness and can lead to wounds and ulcers. The worst-case scenario is the loss of a limb, foot or toes.Man smiling

There is no cure for PAD, but there are advanced treatments to help patients manage this life-long condition. At MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, the care team and physicians are part of a multidisciplinary team including computed tomography (CT) and interventional specialists who diagnose PAD using diagnostic procedures such as screening ultrasound and minimally invasive peripheral angiography.

Peripheral angiography is an advanced minimally invasive imaging system that uses a catheter to help see vivid images of peripheral arteries, in the arms, legs, and feet. This can help us identify plaque build-up on the artery walls or see if there is a blockage.

Son T. Duong, M.D., vascular surgery, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Orange Coast Medical Center

Once a patient is diagnosed with PAD, the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute offers minimally invasive percutaneous interventions, like angioplasty and stent implants, with same day discharge or no more than one night in the hospital.

“Peripheral arterial angioplasty to treat PAD is used to open blocked diseased vessels. The procedure involves temporarily inserting and inflating a small balloon at the site of the blockage to widen the vessel channel and increase blood flow,” said Wang Teng, M.D., FACS, medical director, Peripheral Vascular Services, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Saddleback Medical Center. “By returning blood flow through the vessel, angioplasty and other interventions can save limbs, reduce symptoms and increase function. The procedure is minimally invasive with little incisions and minimal recovery time.”

Stent implants to treat PAD are often implanted simultaneously during the angioplasty procedure. A stent implant helps to open the blood vessels to improve blood flow to the limbs. Stenting is much less invasive than surgery and the recovery time is shorter.

“These minimally invasive procedures allow patients the comfort and reduced stress of eliminating the need for overnight hospitalization,” says Ankur Gupta, M.D., vascular surgeon, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “Many treatments can alleviate and or eliminate the patient from PAD symptoms and patients can be managed with medication and ongoing follow-up care that includes regular visits with their physician and possibly rehabilitation.”

Learn more about heart & vascular health.