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Save Your Veins: What is Peripheral Vascular Disease

June 21, 2018
Published in: Surgery, Vascular

Older woman sitting and pressing around her knee with a concerned look on her face

Even though heart and vascular care may seem like they would be very similar, the two are completely different. Heart care deals with treatment for problems that specifically affect your heart or the arteries and blood vessels exclusive to the heart. The specialists and type of treatments required to help a heart care patient vary based on the specific diagnosis. Vascular care involves treatment of issues negatively affecting circulation outside of the heart and brain. This care often occurs in the legs, neck, arms, and kidneys. The surgeons involved clear blockages in arteries and veins to help restore normal circulation levels. Vascular care professionals frequently treat Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD). This health risk is a circulation disorder that causes a narrowing of the blood vessels that lead to other parts of the body besides the heart and brain.

Risks and Symptoms of PVD

Several different causes may lead to the development of PVD. The most common issue is atherosclerosis which causes a hardening of the arteries. This is a gradual process that occurs as cholesterol plaques build up and cause inflammation of the inside walls of the arteries. As the plaque builds up over time, it may lead to blockage, narrowing, or weakening of the blood vessel walls. If this happens, the blood flow may become blocked or restricted.

Other common causes of PVD may also include:
  • A blood clot because it may block a blood vessel
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation of the arteries
  • Infection
  • Structural defects
  • Injury
PVD has various risk factors. They revolve around lifestyle, family history, medical history, and age. The specific risk factors include:
  • Being over 50 years of age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • A family history of premature strokes or heart attacks
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Personal medical history of stroke or heart attack
  • High cholesterol (LDL) and high triglycerides (HDL)

Treatments

Treatment will vary depending on the case. However, the most common treatments of PVD include percutaneous and angioplasty.

Percutaneous

Percutaneous is a way to enlarge an artery that is narrowed or blocked without having to undergo surgery.

  1. The blockage or narrowing must be located through a procedure called a diagnostic angiogram. The method also determines the severity of PVD.
  2. A catheter (thin plastic tube) is inserted into the artery. The catheter has a small balloon attached on end.
  3. Inside the artery, the balloon is inflated. This pushes aside any plaque and widens the artery.

Angioplasty

Angioplasty is not a permanent solution. The procedure uses stenting techniques for the arteries that are severely blocked.

  1. A stent is placed in the artery to hold it open. This will help create better blood flow.
  2. Eventually, new tissue will grow over the stent. However, if scar tissue develops inside the stent, it can lead to recurrent obstructions.
  3. Recently, a new drug-eluting stent has been created. The stent has a drug attached that eventually dissolves into the blood and helps prevent the growth of scar tissue.

Overall, vascular health differs from heart health based on where the issue is located in the body. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is one of the most common health issues in vascular health. There are various non-surgical options to get PVD treated, and surgery may be required if the case becomes very severe.

Lean more about our Vascular services or for questions or concerns, contact the Augusta Health Surgical team at (540) 245-7705.