Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), is a very common condition. PAD develops most commonly as a result of arteriosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries," which occurs when cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called plaque inside the arteries that narrows and clogs the arteries. This is a very serious condition. The clogged arteries cause decreased blood flow to the legs, which can result in pain when walking, and eventually, the lack of blood flow may result in gangrene and amputation.
PAD may be treated in the San Antonio Regional Hospital Cath Lab by interventional cardiologists. Using imaging for guidance, the cardiologists thread a catheter through the femoral artery in the groin, to the blocked artery in the legs. Then a balloon is inflated to open the blood vessel where it is narrowed or blocked. In some cases this is then held open with a stent, a tiny metal cylinder. This is a minimally invasive treatment that does not require surgery, just a small opening in the skin about the size of a pencil tip.
Balloon angioplasty and stenting have generally replaced invasive surgery as the first-line treatment for PAD. Studies have shown interventional therapy for PAD to be as effective as surgery for many arterial occlusions.
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