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Heart Disease Health Center

Peripheral Vascular Disease

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Exams and Tests continued...

Ultrasonography uses sound waves to find abnormalities. 

  • A handheld device that emits ultrasound waves is placed on the skin over the part of the body being tested. It is noninvasive and painless.
  • You cannot hear or see the waves; they "bounce" off structures under your skin and give an accurate picture. Any abnormalities in the vessels or obstruction of blood flow can be seen.

MRI is a type of imaging study. Rather than radiation, MRI uses a magnetic field to obtain an image of internal structures. It gives a very accurate and detailed image of blood vessels. This technique is also noninvasive.

Several other tests are used under certain circumstances. Your health care provider can explain why he or she recommends certain tests.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your disease, the severity of your condition, and your overall health.

Self-Care at Home

Your health care provider will recommend ways that you can reduce your risk factors for atherosclerosis and PVD. Not all risk factors can be changed, but most can be reduced. Reducing these risk factors can not only prevent your disease from getting worse but also may actually reverse your symptoms. 

  • Quit smoking: Quitting smoking reduces symptoms and lowers your chance of having your peripheral artery disease (and arteries elsewhere) get worse.
  • Get active: Regular exercise, such as walking, can often reduce symptoms and increase the distance you can walk without symptoms.
  • Eat nutritious, low-fat foods and avoid foods high in cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Follow your health care provider's recommendations for controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • If you have diabetes, follow your health care provider's recommendations for controlling your blood sugar and taking care of your feet. Injuries to the skin could lead to skin breakdown, gangrene, and loss of toes if blood flow is impaired.

Medical Treatment

Interventional procedures 

Percutaneous (through the skin) balloon angioplasty, or just "angioplasty," is a technique for enlarging an artery that is blocked or narrowed without surgery.

  • A diagnostic angiogram is done first to locate the blockage or narrowing and determine the severity. That's because minor blockages, for instance, can often be treated with medicine. If the obstruction is significant, especially in a larger artery, angioplasty may be reasonable. 
  • The angioplasty is perfomed through a thin tube called a catheter inserted with a needle into the affected artery. It has a tiny balloon attached to the end. The balloon is inflated, pushing aside the plaque and widening the artery so that it no longer restricts blood flow.
  • The balloon is then deflated and removed from the artery.
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