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Fighting For Your Legs

By  Dr. Gary M. Ansel

(Page 3 of 3)

Lower extremity bypass surgery involves harvesting a healthy vein from another region of the body for insertion into the damaged limb, an effort to reroute blood away from the blocked artery. Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to widen arteries with constricted or blocked blood flow. During the procedure, a catheter with a balloon on its tip is inserted into the narrowed artery and inflated. Once the artery widens, the balloon is deflated and the catheter is withdrawn, often restoring blood flow.

Another option in specific arteries (such as the iliac) is to have a stent (a tubular wire-mesh tube) inserted into the artery, where it is expanded to act as a “scaffold” to hold the artery open and allow blood flow to resume. The procedure is minimally invasive, as the stent is guided into the restricted artery with a catheter inserted through a small opening in the artery located in the groin.

What’s Next

Drug-eluting stents, which are coated with medicine that is slowly released into the artery, were created to prevent the recurent disease from growing through the stent and forming scar tissue, a process called restenosis. These devices have shown clinical effectiveness in treating coronary artery disease, and are currently being studied in the leg arteries.

In the United States and other parts of the world, clinical trials are currently underway to determine the effectiveness of using drug-eluting stents to treat PAD. The trial process is similar to the procedure used to treat coronary artery disease, and involves inserting a drug-eluting stent into the affected leg.

In the meantime, doctors across the country are working to increase general awareness and help identify the early warning signs of the disease. It is their hope that this heightened awareness, paired with the acceptance of innovative new treatment methods, will help eradicate PAD completely.


Dr. Gary M. Ansel is the Director of the Center for Critical Limb Care and Clinical Director of the Peripheral Vascular Intervention-Division of Cardiology at Riverside Methodist Hospital.


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