Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is caused by plaque building up, hardening, and narrowing arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood. It typically affects the arteries of the legs, but can also impact arteries supplying the head, arms, kidneys, and stomach.
At least 8 to 12 million Americans have PAD, including 12-20% of those aged 65 and older.
PAD Risk factors and symptoms
The two most significant risk factors for PAD are age and smoking.
The common symptoms that you should be aware of, when it comes to peripheral arterial disease in the legs, include leg pain and numbness. While many people think that leg pain when walking or climbing stairs is just a sign of getting older, medical experts recommend getting checked out by a doctor if you have these symptoms.
The dangers of peripheral arterial disease
PAD increases the risk of infection, gangrene (which may require leg amputation), coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke).
It is easy to understand that peripheral arterial disease is a dangerous condition that requires appropriate medical diagnosis and management. Typical treatments include lifestyle changes, prescription medications, and surgical procedures.
Surgical treatment options
As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled cases involving the surgical aspect of treating peripheral arterial disease. Two surgical procedures that may be considered to address PAD include peripheral artery bypass and peripheral endovascular revascularization.
Peripheral artery bypass is an invasive surgery, typically done under general anesthesia, which reroutes the blood supply around a blocked artery in the leg.
Vascular surgeons, who are specially-trained in surgical procedures involving blood vessels, perform this type of surgery. During the procedure, a vascular surgeon may harvest a vein from another part of the patient’s body—typically the other leg—or may use a plastic tube instead of a natural blood vessel. The surgery is typically done under general anesthesia. Experts expect full recovery to take 6 to 8 weeks from the surgery.
A minimally-invasive surgical option is peripheral endovascular revascularization.
Revascularization procedures are usually done under local anesthesia and take a few hours. Vascular surgeons use catheter-based equipment to remove blockages in the affected leg artery to restore blood flow.
Experts have found the minimally-invasive procedure to be popular among patients, likely because most people feel better instantly after the procedure and are able to resume normal activities within a few days.
Between 1980 and 2000, the less-invasive revascularization procedures increased 500-fold for patients with symptomatic peripheral artery disease (meaning that they had pain, difficulty walking, or other symptoms).
It is important to realize, though, that vascular surgeons use peripheral endovascular revascularization primarily for the purpose of improving patients’ ability to walk and quality of life. Medical studies show, though, that this type of procedure has had little impact on preventing amputations or cardiovascular diseases or complications.
In my experience, the informed consent conversations between vascular surgeons and patients often focus on the highlights of the minimally-invasive peripheral endovascular revascularization procedure, as opposed to the risks and long-term benefits.
A recent study, released in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2015, revealed that there is a high 30-day readmission rate after these procedures. The study found that the unplanned readmission rate was 17.6% nationally. The most common causes of readmission were procedure complications (28%), the dangerous blood infection sepsis (8.3%), and complications related to diabetes mellitus (7.5%). Of those re-hospitalized patients, 21% had a second peripheral arterial revascularization or lower extremity amputation, and 4.6% of the patients died.
We are here to help
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured from a vascular surgical procedure, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.
Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. A former hospital administrator, Robert Painter focuses his practice on medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, filing lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, and pharmacies, on behalf of patients and their family members. In 2017, he was recognized as one of Houston’s top lawyers by H Texas magazine and Houstonia magazine. Since 2011, he has been granted the prestigious AV rating by Martindale Hubbell, recognizing his strong legal ability and high ethical standards.