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Limb ischemia occurs when blood flow to a limb suddenly decreases. It is the most severe form of peripheral artery disease (PAD). If not treated, it may lead to amputation.
Symptoms of Limb Ischemia
Most of the symptoms of limb ischemia affect the legs and feet:
- Pain or numbness in the feet or toes
- Open sores or skin infections
- Ulcers that will not heal
- Gangrene, or dry, black skin on the legs or feet
Treatment of Limb Ischemia
Limb ischemia is a serious condition that must be treated immediately. Blood flow to the affected area must be restored promptly if the limb is to be preserved. Blood clots are the most common causes of limb ischemia, and nonsurgical treatment may include the following:
- Angioplasty, using a balloon to open a blocked artery
- Stents to prop an artery open after angioplasty
- Laser atherectomy, using a laser probe to dissolve small bits of plaque
- Directional atherectomy, using a catheter with a rotating blade to cut away plaque
If the ischemia is caused by blockages that do not respond to the procedures listed above, surgery may be required to create a bypass that restores blood flow to the affected area.