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Atherosclerosis is the deposition of cholesterol plaques in the arteries of the body. This is the cause of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) [link] the most common cause of death in the United States. When atherosclerosis occurs in arteries of the body outside the heart this is called Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Risk factors for atherosclerosis, CAD, and PAD include: age greater than 50, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But smoking is the strongest risk factor for PAD. The most common parts of the body that patient get PAD is the arteries of the legs, arteries of the neck (carotid arteries), and abdominal aorta (main blood vessel of the body). All of these locations can be evaluated effectively using non-invasive ultrasound image.

Peripheral Artery Disease of Legs:

Blocked blood flow to your legs can cause pain and numbness. It also can raise your risk of getting an infection in the affected limbs. Your body may have a hard time fighting the infection. If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause gangrene (tissue death). In very serious cases, this can lead to leg amputation. If you have leg pain when you walk or climb stairs, talk with your vascular specialist at Heart and Vascular Care. Sometimes people think that leg pain is just a symptom of aging. However, the cause of the pain could be PAD.

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for PAD. If you smoke or have a history of smoking, your risk of PAD increases up to four times. Other factors, such as age and having coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney disease also increase your risk of PAD. PAD can be diagnosed using non-invasive ultrasound of the legs. Sometime taking pictures of the arteries of the legs using a CAT scan is necessary.

Previously the only treatment for PAD was a major vascular operation. Now, the vascular specialists at the HVC Vascular Lab use the latest minimally invasive endovascular procedures such as angioplasty (inflating balloon to open blocked arteries), atherectomy (removing plaques from arteries), and stenting (metal tubes that keep arteries open) to improve blood flow in legs, improve patient quality of life, and prevent amputations.

The procedures are done using light or moderate sedation and the patient is able to go home the same date.

Peripheral Artery Disease of Neck Arteries (carotid arteries):

Blockages from atherosclerosis can occur in the arteries on the neck or carotid arteries. This can causes strokes and mini-strokes (TIA: transient ischemic attack). These can be detected using non-invasive ultrasound, CAT scan, or MRI. Treatment for this condition may involve surgical opening of the blocked artery (carotid endartectomy) or carotid artery stenting (placing metal tube to keep artery open).

Peripheral Artery Disease of abdominal aorta:

When atherosclerosis develops in the main artery of the abdomen called the abdominal aorta, instead of closing the artery it can weaken the walls causing the artery to enlarge or expand. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Normally the size of the abdominal aorta is less then 3 cm, but if an aneurysm larger than 4.5-5.0 cm is found there is a higher change of it rupturing. This disease can be detected using non-invasive ultrasound, CAT scan, or MRI. The US Preventive Service Task Force recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) with ultrasound in men ages 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.