What is PAD?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to the narrowing of the “peripheral” arteries, which are blood vessels in the legs, arms, stomach and head.
PAD is caused by a buildup of cholesterol and scar tissue on the walls of the artery which forms a substance known as plaque. The plaque builds up gradually and over time it will clog the artery, restricting the flow of blood. In some cases, PAD may be caused by blood clots that break free from within larger arteries and get lodged in narrower arteries, which reduces blood flow.
Learn more about PAD
Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure performed to improve blood flow in the body’s arteries and veins. During an angioplasty procedure, imaging techniques are used to guide a balloon-tipped catheter (a long, thin plastic tube) into an artery or vein and advance it to where the vessel is narrow or blocked. The balloon is then inflated to open the vessel, deflated and removed.
In some cases, a small wire mesh tube called a stent may be permanently placed in the newly opened artery or vein to help it remain open. There are two types of stents: bare stents (wire mesh) and covered stents (also commonly called stent grafts).
Angioplasty can reduce discomfort, in many cases, immediately following the procedure. It improves blood flow to the heart and extremities, increases mobility and can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
An alternative to angioplasty for PAD treatment, atherectomy is a procedure to remove plaque from the walls of blood vessels in the extremities.
During the atherectomy procedure, a special catheter with a sharp blade on the end is inserted into the diseased artery. It removes and collects the plaque, thereby eliminating the blockage within the artery. It is performed under local anesthesia and generally performed in a hospital on an outpatient basis. Atherectomies are sometimes recommended when angioplasty and stenting are not possible, such as when an artery is in a difficult to reach location.
Atherectomy is a very safe and effective procedure, and the risk of complications are rare. Patients are usually walking just a few hours after the procedure and able to resume normal activities within 24-48 hours.
Stenting utilizes an endovascular stent graft to reinforce the wall of the blood vessel and help keep the damaged area from rupturing. It is placed using a catheter and guided with imaging to the exact spot of the narrowing within the blood vessel. A stent is a small metal “scaffold” that is inserted into the site of the blockage to open the blood vessel and keep it open.