UNC Vascular Specialties Services
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when not enough blood reaches the legs, thighs, buttocks, or arms because of blocked or narrowed arteries. Patients with PAD may have legs that hurt or cramp, or their legs may become weak when walking or climbing hills or stairs. PAD is the most common form of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and its diagnosis indicates a higher-than-normal risk of coronary disease.
At UNC, our vascular specialists approach every case of PAD individually. Whenever possible, patients will be prescribed lifestyle changes first, including an ,exercise program , anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin or Plavix, and assistance quitting smoking . Because diabetes is also a significant risk factor for the worsening of PAD, vascular specialists may also consult with, or refer patients to, the UNC Diabetes Care Center for help getting their diabetes optimally managed. Patients may also be referred to a cardiologist at UNC because of the increased risk of narrowed or blocked arteries in the heart.
It’s only when symptoms are severe, or when little or no progress is made with lifestyle and medication modifications, that UNC vascular specialists turn to least-invasive endovascular (percutaneous) procedures or open surgery. Endovascular techniques may include the placement of stents , balloon angioplasty, or plaque removal devices (atherectomy). The primary option for open surgery is by-pass.
Patients with severe PAD may also develop hard-to-heal open wounds or ulcers in their legs. For those patients, physicians may make a referral to the UNC Wound Healing and Podiatry Clinic, where patients are given the most advanced wound healing therapies available, which include possible hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
UNC is also unique in offering many opportunities for patients to receive leading-edge therapies through participation in clinical trials. These clinical trials may include medical treatments, such as growth factors which stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, or new devices and technologies.