February is recognized as American Heart Month. It seems only natural to focus on your cardiovascular health during this time of valentines and declarations of heartfelt love. But what does peripheral artery disease (PAD) have to do with your heart health? Quite a bit.
Dr. Daniel Morris is a triple board-certified surgeon with a thriving practice in Decatur, Texas -- Lonestar Surgical Specialists. He’s well-known and widely respected for his skill as a surgeon and his expertise in treating PAD. Dr. Morris is happy to provide some insight regarding PAD, how it relates to your heart health, and what balloon angioplasty and stenting can do for PAD.
What is PAD?
Peripheral arteries carry oxygenated blood to your arms, legs, and vital internal organs. They’re a vital part of your circulatory system, whose manager is the heart. PAD occurs when these arteries narrow or become blocked and fail to supply enough oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to your limbs.
Caused by fatty deposits (plaques) lining artery walls, PAD is often a warning sign that other vital arteries are at risk for a widespread plaque buildup, including those that feed your heart and brain.
Symptoms of PAD
Physical signs associated with PAD typically start slowly and worsen over time as the disease progresses. Related to lack of circulation and limited blood supply, the symptoms most often occur in the lower extremities and may include:
- Cramping pain in one or both hips, thighs, or calf muscles with walking or climbing stairs
- Pain in the extremities that occurs even at rest as the plaque buildup worsens
- Numbness and weakness in the affected extremities
- Color change or coldness in the lower legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Nonhealing sores on your toes, feet, or legs
- Hair loss or very slow hair growth on your feet and legs
- No pulse or a weakened pulse in your legs or feet
Untreated PAD can eventually lead to infections with tissue death (gangrene) that may require limb amputation.
Treatment options for PAD
If thorough evaluation has established your PAD diagnosis, Dr Morris encourages a comprehensive wholistic treatment program. This would include addressing the risk factors causing arterial disease such as chronic nicotine use, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension. Modifying your risk factors is essential to slowing the progression of PAD. Dr. Morris will work with your primary care and specialty physicians in an effort to optimize these factors. Medications, lifestyle changes, and a structured exercise program are vital components to improving your health. These treatments are considered "conservative" when compared to surgery.
If conservative treatment is not sufficient to relieve symptoms then surgery may be necessary. Traditional "open" surgery treatments for PAD include endarterectomy or bypass. These treatments are very effective but may carry more risk of complication since deeper anesthesia is required and incisions are needed to complete the operation.
Less invasive techniques continue to emerge and evolve over the past 4 decades. These " endovascular " surgeries are minimally invasive and can be performed with conscious sedation medicines. This allows much more rapid return to work and activity. A variety of devices can be delivered to arterial blockages through small punctures into the access artery. The devices are guided or tracked over a guide wire under XRay. Endovascular surgery techniques today include:
- balloon angioplasty - balloon expansion compresses plaque to dilate the artery channel
- stent angioplasty - metal mesh tubes are deployed to keep compressed plaque from reexpanding
- atherectomy - mechanical or laser devices debulk the obstructing plaque
- endovascular bypass - stents lined with synthetic bypass graft material
- drug elution - drugs such as paclitaxel are coated on devices, such as balloons and stents, and transferred upon delivery to the plaque to prevent growth
Dr. Morris can perform all endovascular procedures in either hospital or private office-based surgical suite depending on your preference. You’ll spend a few hours in a comfortable recovery room so we can monitor you closely before sending you home to rest and recuperate. Dr. Morris will provide complete instructions regarding aftercare, which may include taking it easy and restricting heavy lifting for a few days.
Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms of PAD. Schedule an appointment at Lonestar Surgical Specialists today. Remember - only a Vascular Surgeon can offer both proven traditional vascular surgery as well as minimally invasive treatments. Call our office or book your visit online by clicking the “request appointment” button. Dr Morris will customize an evidence-based treatment plan to match your needs.