Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Treatments

Overview

What Are Your Peripheral Arteries?

Arteries are the specialized blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to all of your body’s organs. Your peripheral arteries, in particular, are the group of arteries that carry blood to your legs, arms, stomach and head.

What Is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of a sticky substance called plaque, in arteries outside your heart. PAD is most often a problem in the legs.

PAD can make it difficult for blood to travel to your legs, arms and stomach. It can also cause blood-deprived body parts to die, a condition called critical limb ischemia.

Learn more about peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Aurora’s Advanced PAD Treatments

Our care focuses on preventing peripheral artery disease from getting worse and reopening narrow or blocked arteries.

Treatments include:

  • Medication
  • Health and lifestyle education
  • Minimally invasive procedures
  • Vascular surgery

World-Class Care

Our Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment Programs

When you choose us for your PAD care, you can expect:

  • Minimally invasive treatment philosophy: Our doctors always focus first on the least disruptive option possible for your treatment. This includes exploring health and lifestyle changes, medication and minimally invasive treatments (such as angioplasty and stenting) that can improve your condition. This philosophy of care means less surgery, side effects and health complications for our patients.
  • Coordinated appointments: We respect your time. Whenever possible, we will arrange for you to see multiple PAD-related professionals while you are at Aurora. We might send you to see a wound care specialist right after your visit with your vascular surgeon or have you talk to a cardiac rehabilitation program coordinator while you are here for an angioplasty.
  • Exceptional expertise: Our doctors specialize in treating vascular conditions, including PAD. In fact, we treat more people with vascular conditions than any other health system in Wisconsin. The large number of patients we see is one reason we are among the most experienced in the area.
  • Caring vascular professionals: We understand that living with a condition like PAD can be frustrating and sometimes scary. Your Aurora doctors, nurses and technicians will take the time necessary to educate, reassure and respectfully treat you.

Treatments

Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment Options

Your doctor may recommend a combination of these common PAD treatment options:

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent blood clots in your peripheral arteries. Medications may include blood thinners called anticoagulants that dissolve clots in your arteries.

Learn more about our anticoagulation clinics.

Your doctor may also recommend medication to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent heart attacks (a possible complication of PAD).

Health & Lifestyle Education

Your doctor will recommend lifestyle and health habits that can decrease your PAD symptoms. These changes might include:

  • Getting more exercise: Moving more, particularly walking to increase circulation in your legs, can be an important lifestyle-change "prescription."
  • Being vigilant about wound care: Since people living with PAD can quickly develop leg and feet ulcers from poor circulation, we may refer you to our excellent wound care team for specialized help. Learn more about wound care.
  • Participating in cardiac rehabilitation: If you need a closely supervised exercise and diet program, your doctor might suggest you attend one of our cardiac rehab programs. Learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation programs, offered throughout Wisconsin.
  • Making other health changes: These changes might include healthy eating, quitting smoking and more.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

These endovascular (inside the artery) treatments are less invasive than surgery. They involve very small incisions, which means you recover faster than you would with traditional surgery. You often can go home from the hospital the same day as your endovascular procedure.

The most common minimally invasive treatments for PAD are angioplasty and stenting. If your surgical team finds a narrow spot in your artery during testing, they will attempt to widen it with one or both of these procedures:

  • Angioplasty: Using a tiny tube called a catheter, your doctor inserts a small, deflated balloon into your artery. When the balloon inflates, it compresses the plaque buildup against your arterial walls, so your blood can flow more freely.
  • Stenting: By inserting a small, mesh metal tube called a stent into your artery, your doctor can support a weak artery and help it remain open.

Vascular Surgery

The two major surgeries to clear blocked arteries due to PAD include:

  • Peripheral artery bypass surgery: Your vascular surgeon redirects blood flow around the blockage using a blood vessel from another part of your leg or a synthetic material. This is major surgery, so you will stay in one of our Aurora hospitals for five to eight days. Learn more about bypass surgery for atherosclerosis (plaque buildup that narrows and blocks arteries).
  • Atherosclerosis endarterectomy: Your surgeon uses this procedure to remove plaque and sometimes part of the damaged inner lining of your artery around a blockage. This allows your blood to flow more freely through the blood vessel. This procedure typically requires a one-day hospital stay.

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