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Clogged Arteries in Legs Pose Major Health Risk

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doctor evaluating woman in wheelchair

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition that develops when the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the internal organs, arms and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque). PAD can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, amputation and possibly death. PAD affects 8 to 12 million Americans, which is why September is recognized as PAD Awareness Month. 

UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center and Wound and Hyperbaric Center treat and manage PAD with the most advanced technologies. In Finley’s Heart and Vascular Center, Dr. Tauseef Khan, UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology, performs atherectomies to help patients with PAD. This minimally invasive procedure, performed in Finley’s cath lab, uses a small rotational device, inserted into the patient’s artery via catheter to cut the plaque away from the artery wall. Dr. Khan provides this procedure to patients experiencing PAD in all extremities, all the way down the leg to the lower calf.  

“As a first line of defense, a healthy lifestyle is always a recommendation,” explains Dr. Khan. “However, sometimes medications are necessary to reduce the risks that come with PAD. Interventional procedures like atherectomy, angioplasty and/or stenting can improve limb salvage and reduce the risk of amputation.”

Finley’s Wound and Hyperbaric Center is another option for patients with PAD.  With less blood flow to extremities, there is more risk for developing non-healing wounds.  Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a non-invasive, painless treatment in which the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber for short periods of time. The therapy increases oxygen flow to the oxygen-starved areas of the body. 

When plaque builds up in the arteries, there are many possible side effects including heart pain and heart attacks if the arteries of the heart are involved; strokes and transient ischemic attacks if the arteries in the neck are involved; and claudication, non-healing leg ulcers and critical limb ischemia if the lower extremity arteries are involved. Chronic toe and foot sores are common in people with PAD, as are cramping, numbness, weakness or heaviness in the leg muscles. Many patients with PAD do not experience symptoms. 

UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital recommends the following action steps to help manage PAD:

Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, correcting blood pressure and cholesterol numbers
o Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for the development of PAD. Managing these conditions can help improve blood circulation.
Develop healthy eating habits and an exercise plan
o Exercising can help increase the circulation and reduce pain in the lower extremities. Walking, hiking and bike riding are good exercise options. A personal trainer can help tailor a custom workout plan that best fits a person’s needs.
Medications and special procedures or surgeries
o Consult with a UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology physician about which medications or procedures may help PAD and if they are needed.

For more information about PAD and treating chronic wounds, contact Finley’s Wound and Hyperbaric Center