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Minimally Invasive Treatments for PAD
The days of relying solely on invasive surgeries, such as bypass grafts, for peripheral artery disease are long gone. Now, vascular doctors can perform three excellent, minimally invasive treatments for PAD: angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy. Each of these procedures can be done in an outpatient setting. They don’t require stitches or general anesthesia.
During an angioplasty, your vascular doctor guides a small, balloon-tipped catheter into your vascular system using a tiny incision in the groin, leg, or arm. Your doctor locates the blocked area using x-ray imaging and contrast dye and inflates the balloon, compressing plaque against the artery wall. This opens up the artery, allowing blood to flow more freely to the lower extremities. Stent placement is just like an angioplasty but with the added step of using a small mesh stent to keep the artery propped open.
In an atherectomy, the doctor utilizes a tiny blade or laser to remove the plaque from the artery. A small container collects pieces of plaque so that they do not travel throughout the vascular system, which would be a hazard for blood clots.
Are PAD Treatments Painful?
PAD treatments are typically painless, but patients may experience slight discomfort. It’s normal to wonder what an angioplasty, stent placement, or atherectomy feels like. Thankfully it doesn’t feel much like anything: during the procedure, vascular doctors use local anesthesia to numb the pain of the entry point, which is so small it does not require stitches.
You may feel some pressure when the physician guides the catheter into your vascular system, along with discomfort when the balloon is expanded, but you shouldn’t experience sharp pain. 2 Some patients also feel a rush of warmth when the contrast dye is inserted into the arteries.
If you are concerned about pain, speak to your vascular doctor about your worries. They may be able to offer you extra support or light sedation to help you relax during the procedure. Once your procedure is over, your doctor may prescribe medication to help maximize the results of your non-surgical PAD treatment. It is crucial to take this medication exactly as directed.
Additional PAD Treatments
Your doctor may give you medication to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. If needed, you may also receive a prescription for medication that decreases the risk for blood clots.
In addition to these conservative treatments, your doctor may also recommend an FDA-cleared medical device to improve circulation in your feet and legs to help slow the progression of PAD. Devices like these deliver electrical impulses to the leg muscles to mimic heel-toe exercises. These features help the muscles contract, promoting blood flow and circulation. Before starting a new treatment, you should always check with your doctor first and follow their recommendations.
In many cases of moderate and advanced PAD, your vascular doctor may recommend minimally invasive treatments to help widen narrowed arteries. Lifestyle changes are also important following angioplasty, stent placement, or atherectomy procedures because living a healthy, active lifestyle helps keep your arteries in good condition.
Where Can I Get PAD Treatment?
If you need help with PAD treatment, the board-certified doctors at USA Vascular Centers are highly trained in diagnosing and treating PAD. Any of the three FDA-cleared Revitive devices can also help improve blood circulation in your lower extremities.
If you have any of the symptoms of PAD, such as cramping in your legs during activity, patchy leg hair, or wounds that take a long time to heal, ask your doctor for a screening or visit a vascular doctor. Treating PAD promptly can help you avoid complications in the future and help you continue doing what you love.
 “Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 27, 2021.
 “Coronary Angioplasty and Stents.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, October 8, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/coronary-angioplasty/about/pac-20384761.
 “Lifestyle Changes to Manage Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).” Winchester Hospital. Accessed April 21, 2022. https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=20008.
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