Treatment for blocked arteries in the legs, or peripheral artery disease, will involve consulting a physician to assess the degree of obstruction and symptoms the patient is experiencing. According to VascularWeb, the physician will first run tests to determine the amount of circulation (blood flow) the legs are receiving and how much, if any, damage has occurred. The results of these initial exams will guide the physician in treating the patient. Treatment will vary according to the severity of blockage, decrease in circulation and symptoms the patient exhibits.
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According to VascularWeb, early detection of peripheral artery disease can mean minimal intervention is needed by the physician. Catching the disease at onset allows the patient to apply needed lifestyle changes to prevent further progression. Lifestyle changes suggested by VascularWeb include controlling blood sugar if diabetic, lowering high cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, quitting smoking, eating a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet, maintaining your ideal weight, and exercising regularly. Walking for 30 minutes three times a week may be suggested by your physician to decrease symptoms.
Medication may be suggested by a physician, especially if the patient has other conditions contributing to the formation of blockage in the arteries of the legs. VascularWeb states these medications may help lower cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar. Blood thinning or blood clot prevention medications may also be added to the treatment program.
Angioplasty and Stenting
The Merck Manuals Home Edition for Patients and Caregivers states that angioplasty will sometimes be performed in order to postpone or prevent surgery. Angioplasty is a procedure in which a catheter (small tube) is placed inside the constricted artery and a balloon on the tip of the catheter is inflated at the area of blockage to help widen the inside of the artery. The physician may choose to leave a stent (wire mesh) in the artery to ensure the area remains open.
Bypass surgery, as described by VascularWeb, makes an alternative route around the area of blockage. A surgeon will use an unblocked vein from the patient or a synthetic (man-made) product to create this detour. The surgeon attaches the additional vein above and below the area that is obstructed, creating a new passageway for blood flow.
Endarterectomy, as defined by VascularWeb, is a way for a surgeon to clear the artery of plaque (blockage). An incision is made in the leg and the artery containing the blockage. The blockage is removed and the incisions are closed. According to VascularWeb, the effectiveness of an endarterectomy varies depending on the location and amount of blockage.
Amputation is used in severe cases, such as gangrene (dead tissue), when the damage is already beyond repair. According to VascularWeb, amputation is a last resort procedure and surgeons will only perform it when the blood flow cannot be increased by any other means. VascularWeb states that “more than 90 percent of patients with gangrene who are seen by vascular specialists can avoid amputation or have it limited to a small portion of the foot or toes.”