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Why You Don't Have to Lose Your Limb if You Have Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is the leading cause of amputation in the United States. According to Johns Hopkins, over 80% of the amputations performed in the U.S. are due to vascular disease, including blood clots, peripheral artery disease, and complications from diabetes. However, peripheral artery disease usually doesn’t have to end in amputation.

At the Cardiovascular Institute Of America, our cardiovascular disease specialist Dr. Muthu Velusamy and our cardiology team offer cardiovascular care services and heart disease treatment at our offices in Tampa and Lutz, Florida.

Here’s what you need to know about peripheral artery disease treatment and the many alternatives to amputation.

When does peripheral artery disease result in the loss of a limb?

When most people think of clogged and blocked arteries, heart attack and stroke is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) is the leading cause of heart disease - which also happens to be the leading cause of death for American adults

The human circulatory system consists of a vast network of veins and arteries that carry blood throughout the body. Peripheral artery disease is the result of decreased blood flow to the limbs due to blockages and narrowing of the arteries. It typically affects the feet and legs, but can also develop in the arms. 

When a limb is deprived of blood flow and oxygen for too long, it can result in serious complications like infections and tissue death. If the damage is severe, the limb may need to be amputated (think of it as the tourniquet effect).

Treating peripheral artery disease

The good news is that limb removal is generally considered a last resort for extreme cases of peripheral artery disease, where the damage is too great to repair, and when keeping the limb poses a greater risk to your health. 

Although some people can have a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease due to family history, many of the causes can be managed or prevented through lifestyle adjustments and early intervention. Factors like smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight are the leading causes of peripheral artery disease.

Depending on the underlying cause and severity, peripheral artery disease is typically treated with lifestyle adjustments such as exercise and diet to maintain a healthy weight and promote circulation. If you have diabetes, it’s especially important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels at all times, and to check your legs and feet for signs of infection on a regular basis.

Medications can also be prescribed to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Surgical intervention for peripheral artery disease

Depending on the degree of blockage in the affected artery, our cardiologists may recommend a peripheral angioplasty or bypass surgery to increase blood flow to the limb. An angioplasty is a minor surgical procedure to open the artery and increase blood flow by placing a small surgical tube known as a stent inside the artery.

If an angioplasty doesn’t work, a bypass may be a better option. A bypass creates a new path for blood to flow around the blocked or damaged artery through a vein from another part of your body or a surgical tube.

The bottom line is that there are many prevention and treatment options available for peripheral artery disease, and limb removal is reserved for extreme cases that can’t be treated with more conservative options. Our cardiology specialists offer a range of treatment plans and services to help you make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to eliminate or manage your risk of developing moderate to severe peripheral artery disease.

For more information about your treatment options for peripheral artery disease, contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Velusamy at our office in Tampa and Lutz, Florida.

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