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Treating PAD: When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Enough

Managing peripheral artery disease (PAD) can be a frustrating and arduous experience. While plenty of exercise and a healthy diet can help keep cholesterol low and blood pressure regulated, not every individual with PAD who opts for conservative therapy will see results. Thankfully, treatment for PAD is not limited to conservative methods and many patients can overcome their symptoms without resorting to surgery.

If you have continued to experience uncomfortable symptoms from your PAD even after making adjustments to live a healthier lifestyle, then you may need to explore other available options to achieve lasting success for your health. At IVC, we offer a variety of nonsurgical treatment options to our patients struggling with PAD. If changing your diet and exercising more frequently have not provided you with satisfactory results, then consider some of the diverse minimally invasive methods offered at IVC.

What Causes PAD?

PAD is the result of atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of arterial plaque. Arterial plaque can consist of cholesterol, fatty deposits, calcium buildup and any other substance that can stick to the lining of the arteries and impede blood flow. When PAD develops and begins to limit blood pressure, the extremities of the body—mainly the legs—fail to receive the vital nutrients present in oxygenated blood sent from the heart and can suffer a variety of symptoms.

If you have been personally diagnosed with PAD, then you are likely experience regular leg discomfort and cramps that may be painful enough to affect your ability to sleep soundly. If left untreated, PAD can progress and cause skin discoloration in the lower body or even open sores on the legs that fail to heal due to insufficient blood flow. PAD can also be a sign of more serious blood flow conditions that affect the heart, brain and other vital organs. If you suspect you may have PAD and have not yet sought out medical attention, then schedule a consultation at IVC to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Exploring Conservative Therapy Options

Conservative therapy is often the first response to a PAD diagnosis, as it avoids invasive procedures that, while safe, bring inherent risks, downtime and side effects. The initial step in conservative therapy for PAD involves making small lifestyle adjustments that can have a large effect. Consuming healthy, lean proteins and plenty of vegetables while avoiding fatty foods high in cholesterol can cause a noticeable improvement in the symptoms of PAD, in addition to the numerous other benefits of a healthy diet.

Exercise is the second part of the two-pronged conservative approach to managing PAD, with patients directed to perform light exercise under medical supervision to increase blood flow and promote cardiovascular health. Treatment can be as simple as walking at timed intervals and avoiding sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, depending on the patient’s specific needs.

If you have already tried diet and exercise and been met with limited or unsatisfactory results, then a few other conservative therapy options exist to manage your PAD before moving onto minimally invasive options or surgery. Smoking is widely-known to increase blood pressure by narrowing blood vessels, so quitting smoking can have an immediate effect on PAD’s symptoms. Medication for managing PAD can also be effective, especially when used in conjunction with supervised exercise. If diet and exercise have not had the intended results for treating your PAD and you are interested in learning about other methods, then schedule an appointment at IVC to explore additional treatment options.

Minimally Invasive Procedures for PAD

Conservative therapy is an effective and relatively simple solution to improve blood flow and manage PAD’s symptoms, but sometimes it is just not enough. Thankfully, several minimally invasive options exist for removing or eliminating arterial plaque that have minor side effects, limited downtime and lasting results.

Angioplasty is a nonsurgical procedure that utilizes a balloon catheter to open the affected artery and improve blood flow to the legs. The catheter is inserted through a small perforation in the groin that does not require stitches. Once directed to the blockage under image guidance, the balloon catheter is inflated to compress the plaque against the artery’s walls and eliminate the impediment. Small wire mesh tubes called stents are sometimes left in place to keep the artery propped open and prevent recurrence.

Thrombolysis and thrombectomy are two minimally invasive procedures that operate similarly to angioplasty but utilize different methods to eliminate arterial blockage. During both procedures, catheters are image-guided to the site of the impediment through a perforation in the groin. For thrombolysis, the plaque is then dissolved using a medicine injected through the catheter. For thrombectomy, the plaque is broken up using a special medical instrument attached to the end of the catheter.

Finally, atherectomy is a nonsurgical procedure that uses a laser or blade-tipped catheter to remove arterial plaque. Like the other procedures, the catheter used during atherectomy is inserted through a small perforation in the groin and image-guided to the site of the blockage. Atherectomy completely removes the plaque, eliminating the issue at its source.

Each nonsurgical PAD treatment option typically requires no more than a few days of recovery. You can also expect minimal side effects and no visible scars following any of the procedures. At IVC, we are proud to offer all of the above minimally invasive treatment options to help our patients overcome their PAD and improve their quality of life.

Nonsurgical Treatments and Exceptional Care at IVC

At IVC, we offer cutting-edge treatments provided by leading experts in the field of vascular and interventional radiology. We constantly strive to provide an unprecedented level of care to all of our patients. Our skilled and compassionate interventional radiologists will work with you to diagnose your symptoms and develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your needs. If PAD has taken control of your life, then let us provide the care you need to be healthy once again. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule a consultation.

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We are announcing that Interventional and Vascular Consultants will be closing as of March 10, 2023.

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Please know that we have greatly valued our relationship with you and wish you the best.


Jason Bauer, MD RVT
Michael Pfister, MD RVT

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