Peripheral Vascular Disease

Increase your blood flow and avoid heart disease and heart attack

Peripheral vascular disease, also called peripheral arterial disease, is one of the most common causes of heart disease.

Peripheral vascular disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your limbs are narrowed by plaque, a fatty substance that collects on artery walls — a process called atherosclerosis.

If you have peripheral vascular disease, you may have pain in your legs, especially when you walk. Unfortunately, many people believe the pain is just a sign of aging and do not seek medical attention. Left untreated, peripheral vascular disease can lead to gangrene, inability to heal or a heart attack.

Overview

Peripheral vascular disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your limbs are narrowed by plaque, a fatty substance that collects on artery walls — a process called atherosclerosis.

If you have peripheral vascular disease, you may have pain in your legs, especially when you walk. Unfortunately, many people believe the pain is just a sign of aging and do not seek medical attention. Left untreated, peripheral vascular disease can lead to gangrene, inability to heal or a heart attack.

IU Health Heart & Vascular Care physicians provide the following services to diagnose peripheral vascular disease:

Ankle-brachial Index

By measuring pulses at various points in the legs, physicians can determine if blood flow is being blocked.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not require radiation. It allows physicians to look at the blood flow in your legs.

Diagnosis

IU Health Heart & Vascular Care physicians provide the following services to diagnose peripheral vascular disease:

Ankle-brachial Index

By measuring pulses at various points in the legs, physicians can determine if blood flow is being blocked.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not require radiation. It allows physicians to look at the blood flow in your legs.

Advanced, minimally invasive treatments to correct peripheral vascular disease may include:

Prevention Education

Many lifestyle choices that prevent peripheral vascular disease also reduce the severity of the condition. Lifestyle changes may improve your condition and reduce leg pain, such as:

  • Eating well
  • Exercising
  • Managing conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Quitting smoking

Medicine Therapies

You can take certain medicines that keep blood from clotting, which will keep peripheral vascular disease from worsening.

Balloon Angioplasty

During this minimally invasive procedure, a small balloon is guided through the arteries into the blocked area. The balloon is then inflated, widening the artery and increasing blood flow.

Cardiac Catheterization

If plaque build-up is too great, you may need a cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure. During catheterization, a few things may happen:

  • The artery may be widened
  • The blockage may be removed
  • A stent (mesh wire tube) may be placed to keep the artery open

These procedures pose few risks and have a quick recovery time.

Stent Placement

A stent is a wire mesh tube that keeps arteries open. A stent is placed through the artery using a small incision.

Vascular Surgery

In more severe cases, you may need vascular surgery to allow the blood to bypass the affected area. Vascular surgery uses a vein from another part of the body. The vein is grafted to the affected area, directing blood around the blockage.

Treatment

Advanced, minimally invasive treatments to correct peripheral vascular disease may include:

Prevention Education

Many lifestyle choices that prevent peripheral vascular disease also reduce the severity of the condition. Lifestyle changes may improve your condition and reduce leg pain, such as:

  • Eating well
  • Exercising
  • Managing conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Quitting smoking

Medicine Therapies

You can take certain medicines that keep blood from clotting, which will keep peripheral vascular disease from worsening.

Balloon Angioplasty

During this minimally invasive procedure, a small balloon is guided through the arteries into the blocked area. The balloon is then inflated, widening the artery and increasing blood flow.

Cardiac Catheterization

If plaque build-up is too great, you may need a cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure. During catheterization, a few things may happen:

  • The artery may be widened
  • The blockage may be removed
  • A stent (mesh wire tube) may be placed to keep the artery open

These procedures pose few risks and have a quick recovery time.

Stent Placement

A stent is a wire mesh tube that keeps arteries open. A stent is placed through the artery using a small incision.

Vascular Surgery

In more severe cases, you may need vascular surgery to allow the blood to bypass the affected area. Vascular surgery uses a vein from another part of the body. The vein is grafted to the affected area, directing blood around the blockage.

Patient Stories for Peripheral Vascular Disease

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