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Peripheral Artery Disease


  • Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a condition that affects the arteries outside the heart and brain. These arteries include the aorta (largest artery) and arteries of the upper and lower limbs, neck, and organs. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood with oxygen from your heart to the rest of your body. PAD occurs when blood flow to a body part is decreased or stopped. Oxygen cannot get to that body part, and over time, this lack of oxygen may lead to organ damage. This may happen when the artery becomes narrowed, weakened, or blocked. Atherosclerosis, which causes fatty deposits (plaques) to build up in arteries, is the most common cause of PAD.
  • Signs and symptoms depend on what part of the body was affected and how much damage was done. The lower limbs are the first and most common part of the body affected by PAD. You may have muscle pain or cramping in your hip, thigh, calf, or foot. This usually occurs when walking or exercising, and goes away with rest. Over time, you may have severe pain that may happen even at rest, especially while lying down. PAD may be diagnosed through a detailed health history. Tests, such as doppler, ankle brachial index (ABI), angiography, blood tests, or treadmill test may be done. Treatment may include risk factor modification, exercise rehabilitation, medicines, and procedures. With treatment, more serious problems of PAD may be prevented and your quality of life may be improved.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Some PAD treatments cause side effects. You could bleed too much with surgery or develop muscle spasms (painful cramping) after. Stents may not work properly. Sometimes, even with treatment, the signs and symptoms of PAD may come back. If untreated, PAD may lead to a heart attack or stroke (brain attack). Poor blood supply may cause non-healing wound or death of the affected part and may lead to disability. The success of treating PAD is best when it is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your disease, care, or treatment.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV (intravenous)

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Blood pressure medicine: This is given to lower your blood pressure. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.
  • Blood thinners: These are also called antiplatelet medicines. These medicines interact with platelets to prevent clots from forming in your blood. Platelets are a type of blood cell that join to form clots.
  • Cholesterol medicine: This type of medicine is given to help decrease (lower) the amount of cholesterol (fat) in your blood.
  • Clot busters: This medicine helps break apart clots. It is given IV and may be given at the same time as other blood thinners. This medicine could save your life because blood clots in the heart, lungs or brain can kill you. Be careful because you may bleed or bruise easily.
  • Hypoglycemic medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood. Hypoglycemic medicine helps your body move the sugar to your cells, where it is needed for energy.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.


  • Heart monitor: This test is also called an EKG or ECG. Sticky pads are placed on your skin to record your heart's electrical activity. An EKG gives information about how your heart is working. Lie as still as possible during the test.
  • Angiography: This test looks for problems with your arteries in any of your extremities (hands, arms, feet, and legs). A dye is used to help the arteries show up better on the pictures. Pictures may be taken using an x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a computed tomography (CT) scan. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to this dye. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, dyes, or any medicines.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Arterial doppler: An arterial doppler test is done to check blood flow through an artery. A small metal disc with gel on it is placed on your skin over the artery. You can hear a "whooshing" sound when the blood is flowing through the artery. An "X" may be marked on your skin where caregivers feel or hear the blood flowing best. Caregivers may need to check blood flow more than once.

Treatment options:

  • Angioplasty and stenting: A small, high pressure balloon is used to open a blocked artery. Metal or plastic stents (tubes) may be put in the portion of the blocked artery to keep it open.
  • Surgical bypass: This surgery improves blood flow by sending blood around a blocked part of an artery. Caregivers will place a new blood vessel to bypass the blocked artery. This new blood vessel may be artificial (man-made) or taken from another part of your body.
  • Amputation: This is surgery to remove all or part of a leg or arm. Amputation may be done if the bone has a very poor blood supply or a very bad infection. It may also be done if there is gangrene (dead tissues) spreading to other healthy parts.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.