Peripheral Vascular Arterial

Learn More About Peripheral Vascular Arterial

Peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the arms or legs become narrowed or clogged, hindering normal blood flow. PVD can occur in anyone; however, it is more common in men and women over the age of 50. If you have PVD, you are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

Who is at risk for PVD?

Approximately 10 million people in the United States may have PVD. Risk factors include:

  • age over 50
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • high blood pressure or high cholesterol

A family history of heart or vascular disease may also put you at higher risk for PVD.

How is PVD diagnosed?

The most common test for PVD is the ankle-brachial index (ABI), a painless exam in which ultrasound is used to measure the blood pressure in the feet and arms. A blood pressure cuff and a Doppler unit (microphone) are used to determine pressures in the leg. A Doppler device is placed on the skin over the pulse. If there are any blockages, the Doppler makes a specific sound that will be detected by the technologist. This screening procedure takes approximately 15 minutes. A physician must refer you for this procedure.

Based on the results of your ABI, as well as your symptoms and risk factors for PVD, the radiologist can decide if further tests are needed. If your screening test indicates you are at moderate or high risk for PVD, you will return to one of our centers for a Doppler Ultrasound scan. This more extensive color exam will take approximately one hour. Echoes from the sound waves will create an image on a TV-like monitor. A vascular interventional radiologist will interpret these results, along with your history, and discuss with you and your physician any further testing or treatment.

What are the symptoms of PVD?

The disease, which affects both men and women, often goes undiagnosed. Many people mistakenly think the symptoms are a normal part of aging. The following are symptoms associated with PVD:

  • Leg or hip pain occurring during exercise
  • Pain stops when resting
  • Numbness in legs or feet
  • Tingling in legs or feet
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Burning or aching pain in feet or toes when resting
  • Sore on leg or foot which doesn’t heal
  • Cold legs or feet
  • Color change in skin of legs or feet
  • Loss of hair on legs
How can PVD be treated?

The most appropriate treatment for PVD is based on a number of factors, including your overall health and the severity of the disease. In some cases, lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, smoking cessation) are enough to stop the progression of PVD and manage the disease. Sometimes, prescription drugs or procedures that open up clogged blood vessels are used to treat PVD. There are several ways that physicians can open blood vessels at the site of blockages and restore normal blood flow. In many cases, these procedures can be performed using modern, interventional radiology techniques. Vascular interventional radiologists are physicians who use tiny tubes called catheters and other miniaturized tools and X-rays to perform these procedures. Procedures performed by vascular interventional radiologists include:
Angioplasty a balloon is inflated to open the blood vessel. Thrombolytic therapyclot-busting drugs are delivered to the site of blockages caused by blood clots. Stentsa tiny metal cylinder, or stent, is inserted in the clogged vessel to act like a scaffolding and hold it open. Stent-grafts a stent covered with synthetic fabric is inserted into the blood vessels to bypass diseased arteries. Our vascular radiologists, after interpreting your Doppler Ultrasound exam, and after consulting with your physician, may determine that you are a candidate for one of the above procedures. They will be available to discuss the procedure, risks and expected results at the time of your visit.