Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)/ Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

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Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a common progressive circulation disorder that affects blood flow in the arteries from the heart to the rest of the body. When the condition occurs in the arteries, it is called peripheral artery disease (PAD), but PVD and PAD are frequently used interchangeably.


When arteries in the legs begin to develop blockage, blood flow can decrease. This can lead to leg pain during walking or sleeping, or non-healing wounds. If the blood flow suddenly and severely decreases, individuals may have severe leg pain and are at risk for amputation if blood flow is not restored in a timely fashion. Individuals with PAD also have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. 


Our Approach to Treating PAD

Heart and vascular experts at Houston Methodist work together to design an effective PAD treatment plan tailored to your specific condition and unique lifestyle needs.


Using state-of-the-art imaging, our specialists visualize your blood vessels to identify the type and extent of blockage present, as well as the best course of treatment.


When PAD symptoms cannot be sufficiently controlled with medication, our surgeons leverage their expertise and use cutting-edge technology to offer the best open vascular surgeries or minimally invasive (endovascular) procedures needed to restore your blood flow.


About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

How is PAD Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects PAD, he or she will check for a weak pulse or for an abnormal whooshing sound in your legs or feet. Your doctor may also recommend the following tests:


  • Ankle brachial index (ABI) – non-invasive test that compares the blood pressure in your arm to that of your ankle
  • Doppler ultrasound – non-invasive test using sound waves to image blood vessels and help determine if an artery has plaque buildup
  • Angiogram (also called arteriogram) – uses a special dye and X-rays to reveal any narrowing or blockages in your arteries

How Is PAD Treated?

Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following PAD treatments:


  • Lifestyle changes that can help prevent disease progression, such as quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet and participating in a supervised exercise program
  • Medications to lower cholesterol levels, high blood sugar and high blood pressure
  • Blood thinning medication, which prevents clots from forming in narrowed arteries
  • Pain relief medication


If your PAD symptoms cannot be sufficiently controlled with medication, you may need vascular surgery  to restore blood flow. Your surgeon may recommend a minimally invasive procedure or surgical intervention, such as:


  • Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA) or stenting – catheter-based procedure that uses a balloon to open a blocked artery and places a stent to keep it open
  • Endarterectomy – surgical removal of plaque
  • Bypass surgery – open surgical technique used to reroute blood flow around the blocked artery

What Are the Symptoms of PAD?

PAD can cause the following symptoms: 

  • Fatigue
  • Pain or cramping in legs, thighs, calves or feet while walking or exercising that subsides with rest, also called claudication
  • A weak or absent pulse in the legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly or not at all 
  • Color changes in skin, such as paleness or blueness, called cyanosis
  • Decreased temperature in one leg compared to the other
  • Poor nail growth and decreased hair growth on toes and legs

What Causes PAD?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is caused by blockages in the arteries that carry blood to the arms, legs, stomach or kidneys.


PAD can result from atherosclerosis, a condition that results from hardening or the arteries and eventually leads to the narrowing of blood vessels. As this condition progresses, it impairs blood flow — most commonly in the legs and feet.


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